As this year draws to a close those of us who follow politics will look back upon 2011 as one of the most tumultuous in our history. It seemed like every day a new topic surfaced that threatened to tear apart the very fabric of the country. Here is a brief snapshot of some the debates that served to inflame our rhetoric and widen our political divide: implementation of “Obamacare”, the individual mandate, abortion rights, Planned Parenthood, collective bargaining rights for public employees, Tea Party, Occupy Wall street, immigration reform, education reform, voting rights, debt ceiling debate, tax reform, spending cuts, tax the rich, Simpson-Bowles, privatization of social security, the Paul Ryan Plan, the Gang of Six, Supercommittee, the Grand Bargain, S&P credit rating downgrade, massive unemployment, job creation, payroll tax cuts, Bush tax cuts, Republican primary debates, Arab Spring, Libya, invade Pakistan, invade Syria, invade Iran, troop surge in Afghanistan, troop drawdown in Afghanistan and combat forces leaving Iraq. Even the successful elimination of the country’s #1 enemy, Osama bin Laden was subject to criticism and debate.
We are not suggesting that a substantive debate isn’t healthy and that these important items should not receive scrutiny. But what have we accomplished? As you gaze upon this list you will note that with few exceptions these important facets of our life are still unresolved. For all the analysis and press we are still in much the same place that we were at the beginning of the year. We are still at war. Our economy is a mess. Unemployment and poverty continue at alarming numbers and our debt and deficit continue to skyrocket with no end in sight.
And if you think 2011 was fraught with political paralysis wait until you see what is in store for 2012.
On December 30 the President will request another $1.2 trillion in borrowing authority. That will increase the debt limit to $16.4 trillion. There is an automatic $1.2 trillion in cuts that are set to begin in January of 2013. But Republicans want to reopen the discussion about those numbers because they include steep cuts to the military budget. The payroll tax cuts that were just extended for two months will have to be extended again come March.
And all of this will take place in the middle of a hotly contested election season. Not only will we have the usual acrimony that occurs with every Presidential election but we will be witness to a serious battle to control both the House and the Senate. The acrimony within the much divided House Republican caucus will hamper Republican efforts to maintain control. And with Nebraska Democratic Senator Ben Nelson’s retirement announcement the Democrats now have to defend 23 Senate seats. The weak economy and high unemployment will weigh down the President’s chances for a second term and weaken the strength of his coat tails. In other words everything is up for grabs. And one thing is certain…very little gets accomplished in Washington during an election season.
So if you think 2011 was bad…2011 will be little more than a warm up band for 2012.
And while all this paralysis by analysis is going on in Washington…14 million people are out of work, 52 million are without health care and 146 million are living in poverty.