The case for optimism in US politics

I’m optimistic that yesterday’s election marks a positive turning point for the United States. Enlightened moderation prevailed and it’s been made clear to GOP leaders that the path back to power lies through a move toward the middle, not further away from it. In particular, there are a bunch of senior Republican Senators who realize they would be incoming committee chairmen if the Tea Party candidates hadn’t been nominated and trounced. And Governor Romney would have stood a much better chance of beating President Obama if he hadn’t had to move so far to the right during the primaries. Romney’s breathtaking leap to the center in the debates demonstrated that he and his team already understood the importance of moderation.

Demographic changes mean the electorate is moving the Democrats’ way. So the GOP shift will need to be substantial to take back the White House and Senate. That would be a good thing to the country, because in fact the Democrats have moved substantially to the right over the past two decades in response to the Reagan Revolution.

As a Massachusetts moderate myself, here’s my view on what moderation means:

  • The Affordable Care Act aka ObamaCare is a moderate law filled with Republican-friendly ideas about reliance on the market and personal responsibility. Rolling the law back was never going to get us anywhere in tackling the most dramatic economic challenge the country faces. Rather than fighting against implementation it’s time to make ObamaCare a success
  • We have got to be more liberal in our approach to immigration. The real employment growth engines in this country are immigrant-led start-ups and small businesses. We can not take it for granted that talented people from abroad will continue to flock to our shores or stay here when the environment for them is harsh here and improving in their home countries and other would-be lands of opportunity. I’m optimistic that the same kind of attitude toward the “other” that is now leading to the legalization of gay marriage will be applied to immigration as well, with similarly good results
  • Diverting more money to the military is unlikely to be the most effective way to strengthen our country’s international power over the long run. A $10 billion per year increase to the NIH’s budget could make a huge difference in future economic output compare to $10 billion more to the military
  • There has to be a willingness to balance taxes and revenues. Today’s deficits are so big because rather than running surpluses in the Bush years by continuing Clinton’s policies we racked up big structural deficits by doing things like adding the completely unfunded Medicare Part D prescription drug entitlement. When the Great Recession arrived we were starting from a weak fiscal spot; what could have been a $500B deficit turned into $1T plus. I don’t think taxes should go up much on the 2% (e.g., people making ~$250,000 per year) but those in the 0.1% are another story
  • We have to face up to new threats by analyzing them in a rational and scientific manner. Climate change comes to mind as an example of an issue that could use an airing

Meanwhile, if the economy continues to improve and some good luck comes our way, it will be a new dawn in America. I’m ready for it and I hope you are, too.

November 7, 2012

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