It would be comforting to believe that Democrats and Republicans will accept that we are a nation ideologically split right down the middle, using the election results as a mandate to work together to strike a grand bargain which will finally rein in runaway spending through enacting the entitlement program reforms demanded by the Republicans and revenue enhancements insisted upon by the Democrats, much of which would come from increasing the tax burden of higher income Americans. In close observation of the current crop of political and media figures, there is every reason to be pessimistic.
On a recent installment of Fox News Channel's "Hannity," conservative icon Sean Hannity stated that he has not quite forgiven New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for burnishing the president's credentials when Christie praised him for his response to aid New Jerseyans suffering from the effects of devastating Hurricane Sandy. I suppose in Sean Hannity's eyes, Christie should have told the president that he is not welcome in the state immediately preceding an election or that Christie should not have acknowledged Mr. Obama's relief efforts or thanked him for it. I applaud Governor Christie for doing what was right for his beleaguered and suffering constituents: asking the president for help, welcoming him to New Jersey to accept it, touring the devastated state with him, and acknowledging his fine efforts.
Newly-elected Kansas U. S. House Republican Tim Huelskamp has indicated that he will not compromise because compromise is not possible when the parties are so far apart. In turn, a number of Congressional Democrats, asserting that they have the upper hand by virtue of President Obama's re-election, are backing away from their prior willingness to consider reform of entitlement programs, this notwithstanding the fact that the president's victory in the popular vote was slim, that the heartland and the South are solidly red/Republican states, and despite the fact that opponent Mitt Romney won twenty-four states, hardly a landslide for the Democrats.
Americans for Tax Reform Founder Grover Norquist continues to loom large on the political stage as many current members of Congress have signed his pledge that they will never vote to increase taxes. I support a general credo of tax restraint and always seeking tax reduction, but one should "never say never", boxing themselves in to what can turn out to be an unrealistic promise as circumstances change.
If the Democrats hold to what appears to be their current position of no entitlement reform, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will run out of money sooner rather than later. If the Republicans hold to their position of "tax cuts for all or tax cuts for no one," then taxes will increase markedly and a recession would be likely to ensue next year. I believe that on the issue of whether to extend the George W. Bush tax cuts for some or for all, the Republicans hold a losing hand. Just as they were blamed for the government shutdowns that occurred under President Bill Clinton in 1995 and 1996 and forced to retreat, they are likely to be blamed for standing in the way of preserving middle class tax relief for what President Obama classifies as "the 98%".
It appears that the positions of Republicans and Democrats have hardened to an extent that neither side retains a level of flexibility which would enable landmark legislation to be enacted. If this remains true, then we are in a great deal of trouble.
When we assess who is to blame for the dire state of the nation, we must look to ourselves. We placed into office and returned to office largely the same individuals who have fiddled as the nation sinks.