Wednesday, November 05, 2008

And so ...

So Obama has won. Why do I still think about that Woody Allen quote, the one about the two roads we face (one to total calamity and horrible suffering, the other to total disaster, let us hope we have the wisdom to choose wisely yada yada). As of this writing, the Republicans have forty Senate seats, the Democrats have 56. Apparently four are too close to call.

Now, the Senate is crucial, because the Republicans had made the most of their 49 seats in last couple of years to block a lot of legislation. They may still do that if they have as little as one seat over forty. This could mean that a lot of Obama's proposals are DOA in Congress. Which may not be an absolutely bad thing, given the state of the economy. How we got so much in debt may not be as important as how we handle it from here on out. Obama’s proposal are ambitious, and will cost a lot of money.

On the other hand, we know from the great depression that investment in America yields good results. We know that too from the interstate highway system (which now needs reinvestment badly). Obama has said he wants to invest in the highway system, in American health care, in alternative energy (including working on the all important electric grid), and also make a general investment in America by improving secondary and making higher education more affordable and therefore more accessible. Down the line these kinds of investment could yield results that help us tackle our debt with a stronger economy. Trying to save money now, by contrast, might leave us weaker in the future.

But there is no guarantee that it is Obama’s proposals we would see moving through Congress, if the Democrats had 60 votes. Whether or not you think Obama is socialist, I strongly suspect there are more radical Congresspersons who might advance some problematic legislation, much higher taxes on capital gains than Obama has proposed, much higher spending on pet projects than Obama has proposed, an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, etc. I only vaguely remember 1993 politically, but I know we have been living through the fallout ever since.

It would be nice if one of the campaign promises both sides made, about ending partisan rancor and reaching across the aisle, could actually be kept. The Democrats did not filibuster much of any of President Bush’s legislation after 9/11. If the Democrats don’t reach 60 seats in the Senate, it would be nice if the Republicans could consider signing on to at least part of Obama’s agenda, and letting Obama know ahead of time. Then some legislation could be passed swiftly and then the rest could be debated nationally. If the Democrats reach that 60 seat number in the Senate, then it is possible the midterms will look like 1994

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