JUNEAU: The Ides Of November

Cheer up folks. In just 60 more days the elections will be over and, for at least a few months, you won’t have to listen to grown men and women call each other Nazis, enemies of the middle class, socialists, or other epithets. Or will you? Perhaps you thought the onslaught of political ads and campaign rhetoric would end after the vote count on November 6. Unfortunately, the cruel partisan attacks may be just beginning. Why? Because the lame duck session from hell will begin in Congress shortly after the election.

Imagine for a minute how this is going to go. The two political parties that went hammer and tong after each other for months are going to reassemble in D.C. to conduct a gargantuan amount of unfinished business that stacked up while they pole-axed each other on the campaign trail. There will be no harmony. There will be little if any bipartisanship. Adults in the room will be few and far between. However, huge issues that must be resolved in only a few weeks will hang over their heads—and ours.

If Congress does not act, a huge tax increase on almost everyone in the country will go into effect on January 1. It will be accompanied by a mammoth sequester of defense spending and some non-defense expenditures (excluding most entitlement spending). Some pundits call this the “fiscal cliff.” Economists say that, if politicians do nothing to head off this impasse, it could trigger another recession. The alarm bells are ringing, but the odds are good that the two warring factions in Washington are too busy loading their rhetorical weapons to hear them.

It would help if the American voters would send a clear message to the brawlers on the Potomac that there is a definite direction they wanted these politicians to take in addressing these critical issues, but don’t expect that to happen. Voters can’t decide upon the direction that they want the federal government to pursue. Half of American households are now receiving government assistance in some form or fashion. That percentage will grow even higher if President Obama is re-elected, brandishing his veto pen as the ultimate weapon to thwart any challenges to the Affordable Care Act.

Conservatives and many independent voters have had it with the huge national debt, budget deficits and excessive government spending. They are not going to be convinced that borrowing more to spend more is a sound policy or a realistic way out of the fiscal crisis.

Perhaps Clint Eastwood’s vignette at the Republican National Convention whets our appetites for what is coming down right after the election. It has all the hallmarks of being “High Noon,” “The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral,” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” rolled into one. These people really don’t like each other. Washington is about power. One side has it, and the other side wants it. Those sides may reset after the election, but the struggle will not end.

The victims in this power play are the families, workers, and small businesses that continue to live on the edge. To them, nothing in Washington makes sense any more. The government tells them that there is no inflation, yet they pay more every time they leave the gas pump and the grocery store—two stops they can’t avoid. Pundits write that the stock market is booming, but the “folks” don’t see signs of vibrant economic growth in their lives. These individuals deserve serious action toward real solutions that will move the economy forward, create jobs, and begin to reduce the mountains of debt that threaten the standard of living of their children and grandchildren. What they are likely to get instead is another round of political warfare when Congress convenes in November.

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