Washington is trying to rescue itself. The Republican method is too much compromise that’s still better than none. President Barack Obama’s strategy is policy sleights of hand and staff shuffles. While no piece of this takes us where we need to go, the GOP at least is stumbling in the right direction.
Let’s visit first with the negative side of what Republicans did. Backing a deal done between the budget chairs of the House and Senate, House Republicans agreed to still more excessive federal spending that is also excessive national jeopardy. Especially considering that there was no simultaneous agreement on long-term, crucial entitlement reforms to prevent debt catastrophe, this would be highly objectionable if it were not for three matters that good sense forbids ignoring.
One is that the deal cancels some pretty awful sequestration cuts few had wanted to go into effect in the first place. Two is that the Democrats also did some truly commendable yielding. Three is that the Democrats were highly unlikely to yield more and that the alternative to this shaking of hands and final Senate passage could have been a government shutdown simultaneously shutting down any GOP chance of obtaining power sufficient to do something more important someday.
Already, with their don’t-fund-Obamacare tactic that culminated in a 16-day shutdown back in October, House Republicans had established themselves with many as hooligans whose legislative muscle should be withered in the 2014 mid-term elections. Then came further implementation of Obamacare, upholding their thesis of its abominations. There has also been a growing disenchantment with the president who misled us into this ungodly mess, and the Republicans may now have a second chance if they behave reasonably. That’s huge because Obama’s policies could otherwise ruin us.
His administration has unblinkingly abetted the worst economic recovery since World War II — increased poverty, decreased middle-class incomes and life-crushing rates of long-term unemployment. The Obamacare disasters to date, such as millions losing health insurance policies, could well be followed by such other misadventures as doctor shortages, taxes that obliterate factories and regulations likewise punishing America with higher unemployment.
Let’s change the subject, said Obama, promising that he would devote himself for the rest of his term to reducing income inequality. And how better to start than with a false assertion, namely saying that middle-class incomes have been stagnant since the late 1970s. Actually, according to the Congressional Budget Office, they had been scooting upward at a healthy pace prior to the recent recession.
To make everything more even-steven, our leader wants to raise the minimum wage. Does he know that only a tiny percent of hourly workers earn the minimum wage? That average minimum wage earners are in households that have an overall decent income? That the minimal good it will do for some will be offset by all the people who will lose their jobs or have their work hours reduced?
Overlooking the fact that virtually all poverty increases in the decades before the last recession were a consequence of immigration, another of his answers is to continue importing uneducated, unskilled workers in numbers too great to be assimilated. Do they consequently get bliss here? Some do, but some suffer.
There’s more, some of it complicated, none of it quite what’s needed, and even if his new staffers advise him more ably than past ones, I seriously doubt any significant enlightenment will occur minus an ideological reversal nowhere signaled. What’s needed in the absence of significantly more Democratic yielding in Congress is to put Republicans in control of the Senate as well as the House, a possibility I would have ruled out until lately.
Jay Ambrose is the former director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard Newspapers, and was editor of The Rocky Mountain News in Denver and the El Paso-Herald Post.
© 2013, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.