Until the votes are cast and counted, no one, no matter how smart or well-connected, can predict with certainty the outcome of the 2012 elections. And yet, Democrats and some Republicans are already forecasting that President Barack Obama will win re-election, and Democrats will maintain control of the Senate and pick up new House seats.
Elections are important. They represent the pinnacle of democracy. But what comes after this election might be even more important. Beginning with the lame-duck Congress that will return to Washington the week after the election, our leaders will start making the most fundamental and consequential decisions about budgets, taxes, and the role of government in our society that they have made in generations.
Some call it the “fiscal cliff.” Others call it “taxmageddon.” Whatever the label, Congress and the president will decide many things: the future of the Bush tax cuts, whether to extend the payroll tax holiday for millions of Americans, and whether to avoid scheduled cuts in spending that would radically pare all sorts of domestic programs. Key things are at stake, such as protecting our water and air, and food assistance for hungry Americans.As these deliberations unfold, we must adhere to three priorities:
First, we must end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. This will provide revenue that can be used to strengthen education, create jobs, improve our roads and bridges and help the millions of Americans who are struggling to get by in today’s sluggish economy.
Second, we must protect our nation’s safety net. Americans count on programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security to be there when we need them, and we can’t afford to see them cut. In House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s district alone, there are 153,000 people who benefit from Medicare or Medicaid, according to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Third, Congress must invest in America — and this means creating jobs. The best place to start would be to pass Obama’s jobs package. But if a divided Congress can’t bring itself to do that, it must pursue other options.
If Democrats win big this November, they’ll have the political capital to achieve these three priorities. The question is whether or not they’ll seize this opportunity to get America back on the right track.
OtherWords commentaries are free to re-publish in print and online — all it takes is a simple attribution to OtherWords.org. To get a roundup of our work each Wednesday, sign up for our free weekly newsletter here.