By Sid Salter/Syndicated columnist
The Picayune Item
STARKVILLE, Miss. —
Now that the Nov. 6 balloting is complete — although the squabbling over the balloting is nowhere near complete — where does the country go from here?
Regardless the outcome of the election, the United States faces a laundry list of serious problems. First and foremost, as exposed by the election, this is a sharply divided nation — one that is divided by disparate beliefs and values as it relates to the nature of government, by economic status and by perceptions of equality filtered through the prisms of race, gender, religion and morality.
The fact is that joblessness and an incredibly slow recovery from recession has impacted economic growth. The current economic “recovery” is the weakest since World War II, and the jobless rate is higher than when President Barack Obama took office.
The U.S. is borrowing more than $1 trillion annually with economic growth insufficient to keep pace. Over the long haul, the nation’s debt crisis looms large and threatens to plunge the nation into global economic instability.
There is no long term solution to the nation’s economic woes that does not follow a path through the nation’s entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. With 78 million Americans careening toward collecting those benefits, the White House and Congress face historic decisions that will carry significant political consequences.
Also waiting is the so-called “sequester” dictated by the debt ceiling deal which will require nearly $55 billion in defense spending cuts. From Mississippi’s shipyards to central Mississippi defense plants to north Mississippi missile defense technology plants, those cuts threaten an already delicate economy in the poorest state in the union — and those impact multiply across the nation.
Another $38 billion in federal spending cuts also loom for education, public health, immigration enforcement, and the broader federal judicial system as part of the debt ceiling deal. Those are but foothills along the fiscal roadway that leads to the vaunted “fiscal cliff.”
It’s not all spending cuts. The expiration of the Bush tax cuts is projected to raise federal revenue by $250 billion annually, but those tax hikes come at a time when small businesses and the taxpayers who own and operate them are struggling. The growing class warfare political tactic of calling on higher taxes for wealthy taxpayers remains a threat to the speed and intensity of the economic recovery.
And just as the federal government and the taxpayers adjust to the last debt ceiling deal, the need for another one will emerge in the not too distant future.
Couple those very real economic concerns with the foreign policy concerns of the Middle East, the economic concerns in the European Union, and the very real prospect of a global banking crisis and one wonders why anyone would pursue the job with the intensity that both Obama and Mitt Romney brought to the 2012 election fray.
The dynamics of current American politics — in which both the major parties are under increasing pressure from the more extreme wings of their parties to insist on ideological purity and to avoid any step toward compromise — leave little room for innovation in addressing most of these incredibly complex problems.
Yet one encouraging part of the Tuesday balloting was the “ground games” that both parties employed in trying to win the election for their respective parties. The fact that cynical, jaded voters — many of whom were mired in recovery from a massive storm – could be motivated to get out and vote offers a glimmer of hope for meaningful compromise and statesmanship as the “new” U.S. government reassembles and gets to work after this election.
But the clock is ticking for business as usual in Washington. Business as usual is a prescription for real economic misery for our country and a plethora of problems that will increase and multiply for lack of any serious attention. Democrats and Republicans alike deserve better.