This column is being written as we all vote in the 2022 mid-term election and therefore I do not have access to the final tallies across the states. In spite of that most everybody, including Democrats, with the possible exception of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), have conceded that the Republicans will win 10 to 25 additional seats in the House of Representative and thus become the majority party in the House. But will the new majority translate into a legislative force that can change the course of America as nearly eighty percent of voters demanded by repudiating President Joe Biden and defeating Democrat majorities in both houses of Congress?
This is a gentle reminder of what transpired the last time we had an unpopular Democrat President who lied to us routinely in effort to push through the beginnings of socialized medicine – the Affordable Care Act better know as Obamacare after its principle architect former President Barack Obama (D). In 2010 the Republicans asked the American public to return the House of Representatives to their control so that they could repeal Obamacare. The voters did so and a Republican majority was sworn into office and a Republican Speaker of the House was elected, But, thereafter, the Republicans did nothing. Instead they claimed they needed both the House and the Senate in order to repeal Obamacare. And in 2012 the voters gave them control of both houses and they in turn failed to repeal Obamacare – in fact they hardly tried.
Obamacare had proved to be such a potent political plank that instead of fixing or repealing it, they decided that they would run on it again and demanded that voters give them majorities in both Houses as well as the presidency in 2016 and once again the voters complied and the Republicans still failed to repeal Obamacare.* Thereafter, voters gave the Republicans the boot as they should have.
The important thing here is that the Republicans chose to use a volatile issue as a political message instead of doing something to resolve it. (The Democrats do the same thing by using illegal immigration, threats to Social Security, and racism – they have added abortion and “the end of democracy” lately. And so the question is will the Republicans tackle the tough issues: inflation, border security and crime or will they hold hearings, mount their steeds, and prepare for the next election without doing anything.
Based on the likely leaders of the House Republicans for the 2023-2025 session, I’m betting on the latter. The Republican ranks of the House are replete with smart and articulate members who both understand and embrace a conservative agenda. On the other hand, Mr. McCarthy – the likely next Speaker – is a reed blowing in the wind. Unlike former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) who laid out an aggressive agenda of change based on conservative principles, Mr. McCarthy set forth a list of glittering generalities with no clear path towards achieving them. Instead Mr. McCarthy chose a bold** plan for Republicans:
- An economy that is strong
- A nation that is safe
- A future that is built on freedom
- A government that is accountable.
The only things missing are: “do good and avoid evil” and “brush your teeth before going to bed.” Who can disagree with these generalities? Even more importantly, who can define whether an actual piece of legislation approaches led alone accomplishes anyone of these “goals?”
And even with his list of glittering generalities there is no sense of priorities. For instance, is stopping Mr. Biden’s reckless spending more important than a federal act prohibiting abortion? Is securing the border more important than funding the Ukrainian resistance to Russia’s invasion? While it is nice to say that we can walk and chew gum at the same time, the fact of the matter is that we cannot afford to do both – at least for the foreseeable future. But we cannot. Virtually every initiative requires the expenditure of funds we do not have. Treating all initiatives as if they are of equal importance is disastrous for our economy. The idea that we can spend more than we have is exactly what has brought us to this.
Mr. McCarthy is extraordinarily adept at fund raising as well as distributing campaign funds where needed. He can get Republicans elected. He is less concerned about the political philosophy of those he supports than he is about assuring the headcount necessary to secure his election as Speaker. And that apparently substitutes for leadership. Raising campaign funds versus governing a diverse body of equals while attending to a short list of achievable results require widely different skills. And while Mr. McCarthy appears to excel at the former, there is no evidence that he is even moderately successful with the latter.
And as good as he may be at fundraising, he is that bad at negotiating as evidenced by the fact that he lost virtually every battle with Ms. Pelosi. There is a particular skill in negotiating and one of those skills is to be mindful of the end result and the long term consequences. We have seen that neither Mr. Biden nor Ms. Pelosi and particularly Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are capable of looking past the optics of an initiative to its direct result and more importantly its indirect results. For Mr. Biden and Mr. Schumer I believe is a matter of stilted intelligence while with Ms. Pelosi it is a myopic view of the world – her world. Ms. Pelosi has three goals in mind when dealing with legislative issues: 1) can she increase her family’s wealth, 2) can she blame Republicans for the problem, and 3) can she pit some group of aggrieved people – real or imagined – against a successful group of people or lately against former President Donald Trump. Mr. McCarthy has the opportunity to compete against a set of week opponents. However to date he has shown no evidence that he is any stronger than they are.
But the Republican congressional members can, in fact, develop, pursue and pass a short list of doable things that will actually deal with the issue most important to the public. But if they do as they did last time and choose to use America’s problems as campaign fodder instead of fixing them, the voters will kick them to the curb just as they did with the Democrats this year. For once, someone needs to emphasize that the purpose of a member of Congress is to actively solve the nation’s problems – getting re-elected is secondary or tertiary at best.
Controlling inflation should be number one. It is a shared responsibility of the President, the Congress and the Federal Reserve System. Thus far only the Federal Reserve has acted and that action is raising the federal funds rate – which it has done four times this year thus far. It is an action that will work overtime because the net effect is to reduce the amount of money in the economy, except that the determinant to its success is measured by a reduction in employment coupled with a rise in unemployment. In other words the brunt of the cure falls squarely on the shoulders of working class men and women. The President’s responsibility is to stop spending in excess of revenues thus reducing the amount of money in the system, but to date he has not only failed to that, he is in cognitive denial as to that responsibility – in simple terms he just doesn’t get it.. The Congress likewise is responsible for reducing the amounts appropriated to be spent and Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer have like Mr. Biden failed at every turn spending as if their next election depended on it – not as if America depended on it.
We are way passed partisan politics and/or posturing for the next election. It is time to lead and it is time to act. Otherwise, I would follow my son’s advice when observing his favorite football team flounder with no hint of turning things around: FIRE EVERYONE -there is no one worth saving.
*Granted that it was the singular vote of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) who was hell bent on stabbing Mr. Trump in the back and ensuring that no Republican would succeed where Mr. McCain had failed. You may remember that Mr. McCain reportedly said, as he left the Senate floor after the deciding vote, “Now, let’s see him make America great again.”
**For those of you forced to endure a humorless teachers union led education in the Portland Public Schools, the reference to a bold agenda is meant as sarcasm.