Last Tuesday, I did something extremely unusual for me: I voted republican for my US congressman. Not that it did much good in my district; my current congressman, David Price, is pretty well gerrymandered. If this election season couldn't budge him, he's probably safe until district lines are redrawn a few years from now.
Whenever possible I vote libertarian, since I'd rather vote for someone I agree with than vote against someone. This time, there was no libertarian running for the seat, so choosing to vote between a democrat and a republican was a bit like choosing whether to get shot in the face or in the gut. I went with the gut shot.
Since I voted republican, and since the last few days a lot of prominent republicans have been talking about listening to the voters, here some advice for the new congressional majority.
1. I'm fine with gridlock and paralysis. If the next two years pass without a single new law coming out of congress, I'll consider that a win. I think of the legal code of the US as a kind of cancer. Two years without further explosive growth might not be a cure, but sometimes simply not getting worse feels like a victory.
2. It's the balance sheet, stupid. I didn't risk a republican vote because I want you to block mosque building, deport Mexicans, hang the ten commandments in courtrooms, or treat gays as second class citizens. The only reason I'm giving you a shot is because enough republicans have given lip service to debt that I think, maybe, possibly, you might actually make some feeble steps toward cutting the growth of government. But, if experience is any guide, you're more likely to grow the debt by cutting taxes and refusing to touch sacred cows of spending like farm subsidies, defense contracts, and entitlements. Tax cuts made sense in the 80s, when income tax rates could be above 50%. Today, most households pay a net income tax of zero. I'm fine if my taxes go back to the Clinton era rates. I'd even embrace a tax increase if serious action was taken first to cut some of the sacred cows I've mentioned.
Maybe I'm in a minority, but I don't think American's feel overtaxed. I suspect most feel over-complicated. For me, as a homeowner with income from writing as well as a more traditional employer, I dread tax time not so much because I have to write a check every year, but because I have to spend days figuring out what it is I owe. I have an envelope full of reciepts for everything I spend going to conventions to promote my books, including a reciept for the envelope. What I can and can't deduct bewilders me. It's been a long time since I took the SAT, but, when I did, I had scores in both the math and the language portions that placed me in the top 2% of the population in both areas. If the tax code stumps me, I can't even imagine what it does to people who aren't as fluent with math and reading. I don't want more laws and loopholes piled on to the tax code, I want the whole thing scrapped and replaced with something comprehensible.
Cut spending and simplify taxes, and I might vote republican again.
Now, for Obama: So far, the spin doctors on the left, including Obama, seem to be in a serious case of denial. They seem to be looking at the election and thinking, "They aren't rejecting my policies; I've just failed to make sure the American public understood all the good I've done for them." President Obama, if you read this blog (which I'm certain you do, since it's part of the president's job to read all blogs that American's write), WAKE UP! HELLO! The average American voter has just screamed at you, "STOP SPENDING!" They understood exactly what you've done, and they don't want you to do it anymore.
So, here's a radical notion: Embrace the mandate. American's have said pretty loudly that they care about the budget deficit. The most radical thing you could do, President Obama, would be to go to the new congress and say, "Here's a plan that balances the budget in six years." Present them with tough cuts across the board, and maybe even a tax hike or two. Make sure the numbers add up not just in the world of wishful thinking, but to anyone with a calculator and too much time on their hands. If you presented a serious budget plan, you would either wind up a winner, or, if you fail, you'd take out your political enemies with you. If you had an actual balanced budget plan and Republican's opposed it without presenting an even more credible plan, it would expose them as hypocrits. If they embraced it, both Republican's and Democrats would share the political pain needed to reduce spending and increase revenue. I think the odds that you'll follow my advice are pretty low, but I still wanted to get it out there on the table. Thanks for reading, Mr. President!
Finally, to the American people: As convenient as it is to blame our problems on Obama or Bush or Reagan or Carter or FDR for that matter, the plain truth is that our problems exist because we elect people to govern and then stop paying attention. Obama complains that American's don't understand everything he's done for them, and he's right. We don't know everything he's done for us or to us because it's utterly impossible for any individual to pay attention to all the legislation and regulation that issues forth from any given administration. But, there was once a time in America when there were people who did this for us. They were called reporters; perhaps you remember them. They worked for something called newspapers. They definitely do not work for television. If you turn on a TV newscast, you aren't watching a reporter. You're watching a talent; they aren't speaking to you because they understand the issues or the facts to any great degree, but because they look good on TV and can talk without mumbling. They can keep talking long after they have nothing to say, such are their skills.
If you want to find actual information, you need to read. Tune out the screaming voices of talk radio and the weepy prophets of television infotainment. Read newspapers and magazines and books. In two years there will be another election, and elections should be treated like final exams. Now is the time to start studying.