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Washington Jungle


The Election Didn’t Clean The House

By James Donahue

American voters made a lot of good choices on Tuesday. They returned an incumbent President to office at a time when a changing of the guard would have interrupted ongoing and vital international game play that only the sitting leadership would be aware of. They fired a lot of the troublemakers in the U. S. Senate who had been actively holding Washington in gridlock since Barack Obama took office.

What voters failed to do . . . and we can’t imagine how this might have happened . . . was to clean away the troublemakers holding Congressional seats. The new Congress will be packed with more hardline Republicans than exist in the paralyzed non-productive Congress that will be shutting down at the end of the year. They outnumber the Democrats. Under the continued leadership of House Speaker John Boehner it looks as if Washington has been set up for another four years of stalemate.

This means that most, if not all of the promises Mr. Obama made to the nation will continue to be locked up in the Congress. The bills that come out of the House will be in conflict with the Democratic dominated Senate. And the President will find himself caught in the midst of a new round of non-partisan infighting based upon conflicting moderate and extreme right-wing ideologies.

Mr. Obama has the tools available to continue shutting down the ugly Afghanistan conflict, dismantling the costly military machine, negotiating for peaceful settlements between Israel, Iran and Syria, continuing the repair of the broken job market following eight years of Republican insanity under the Bush-Cheney tomfoolery, and perhaps steering the nation toward more green and renewable energy systems. And he will be in a position to make balanced appointments to the U. S. Supreme Court if and when court retirements occur.

Getting the work done smoothly, and without butting heads with Congress over critical financial issues in the weeks and months ahead, may take a miracle. Still to be resolved are the notorious “Bush tax cuts” that expire January 1 and the sharp conflicts between the Democrats and Republicans over extending them. Mr. Obama wants to continue the lower tax rates for the low and middle income earners. The conservative Republicans argue that high income earners should also enjoy the extended tax cuts.

Letting the tax cuts expire and shutting down the high cost of military conflict would go a long way toward balancing the national budget and reducing the national debt. If Republicans are still in love with the Romney-Ryan budget plan, they will be pushing, instead, for extreme cuts in money for social services, infrastructure repair, education and medical programs.

Most Congressional Republicans have signed Grover Norquist’s notorious Taxpayer Protection Pledge, thus binding themselves to oppose any and all tax increases. Sticking to this pledge, however, forces extreme budget slashing and leaves room for few options for getting the nation out of the financial hole it is digging for itself.

The other big deadlock issues looming are 1.) raising the cap on the national debt, 2.) dealing with the effects of climate change, and 3.) extending unemployment assistance and food stamp programs for the millions of people out of work or recovering from extreme storm damage.

As Time Magazine put it this week, “anyone hoping that the next Congress will usher in a new era of civility, compromise and functionality will probably be disappointed. After Tuesday’s election the new majorities are meaner, if not leaner than ever.”

Mr. Obama has his work cut out for him in this next term.