The results of the November 2 mid-term elections were devastating for Democrats as had been predicted for weeks. With over 60 seats lost in the House, the Republicans will retake control of that chamber in January 2011 after spending just 4 years in the minority. Republicans also made gains in the Senate, but thanks to national exposure of extreme Tea Party candidates like Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell, the Democrats won’t have to give up their majority standing there.
Immediately following their big night, Republicans started laying out their plans for the 112th Congress. Repealing health care. Investigations in the Obama Administration. Tax cuts for the rich. These are the top priorities for Republicans starting next year – all aimed at “making sure President Obama is a one-term president” as stated by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
But here’s the thing – we are still in 2010. And in 2010, Democrats hold a large margin in the House as well as 59 seats in the Senate. The Democrats need to stop worrying about what’s coming in 2011 for a moment, and work especially hard at doing something good for the American people during the final days of their outright majority.
Unemployment is stubbornly stuck at 9.6%. Republicans believe that extending all of the tax cuts is the only way to boost jobs and get that rate down. Of course, many Republicans also believe President Obama is a secret Muslim on a personal crusade to destroy America and put everyone under Sharia law. Obama and the Democrats want to let those tax cuts lapse for the top 2% of incomes – a move that would save approximately $700 billion from hitting the deficit. So, in essence, both parties agree on 98% of the tax cuts and are going to fight about whether Warren Buffet should continue to pay less in taxes than his secretary.
Extending the tax cuts either way is fiscally bad for the nation. The Congressional Budget Office studied the potential effects of various policy options on job growth and economic stimulus and found that while extending the tax cuts would have modest short term effects on job creation, in the long run, they would saddle us with so much more debt over the next 10-20 years, that any short term growth would quickly be squashed by the effect of increased interest payments on the debt. According to the CBO, there are more effective and less costly ways to attempt to boost job and economic growth – such as increasing unemployment assistance and reducing employer and employee payroll taxes.
Let’s face it. Republicans do not want the unemployed finding work anytime soon. If their number 1 goal is to remove Obama, as McConnell has said on more than one occasion, then trying to find compromise with Democrats would be counterproductive to that goal. Therefore, it is crucial that the Democrats “man up” during this lame duck session and force the hand of the Republicans. Force the Republicans to defend tax cuts for millionaires that don’t need them. Claiming that millionaires create jobs is a hollow argument, considering that we’ve had a net loss of jobs since 2003 when both tax cuts were set in place.
If the Democrats have learned anything from the past 2 years, it should be that Republicans do not compromise unless the compromise is the Democrats voting for 100% of what the Republicans want. In these final days of 2010, the Democrats need to show some muscle and prevent themselves from caving. Whether it’s tax cuts or Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, they need to show their base that they care about the average American.
If Democrats want to set themselves up for 2012, they need to use this lame duck session to appeal to the middle class. They need to paint the Republicans as hypocrites who rail against the deficit with one hand, and demand debt busting tax cuts with the other. They need to give the liberal and moderate base hope that 2010 was just a hiccup and not a growing trend rightward.
You wouldn’t know it by watching the cable news, but Democrats are STILL in charge. They just need to believe it for themselves.