- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2006

The elections are over and now comes the hard part to correct all the problems politicians rail against in their campaigns but never get around to fixing.

If you voted in the hope of getting some quick solutions to the problems we face here at home, don’t hold your breath. Many if not most of the pols who make their living complaining about these things haven’t the foggiest idea how to fix them. And among those who think they do, the cure can be worse than the illness.

Clearly health care coverage for some 40 million uninsured Americans remains a huge and growing problem argued over, election after election. But I did not hear a clear, workable proposal in any campaign about what should be done about it. In fact, state chairmen in both parties told me they heard voters complain candidates too often got sidetracked by silly, marginal, low-priority issues that didn’t deal with the serious problems that worried them — like health care, job creation or Social Security reform.

In the plethora of Democratic campaign ads, I saw a seemingly endless number of gratuitous guilt by association attack ads that sought to identify Republican candidates with President Bush. But if there were any TV ads (in either party) that suggested we could help the uninsured by doing X, Y and Z, I didn’t see one.

Here’s an idea for a partial fix: Let the uninsured deduct their medical care costs from their annual tax bill just as homeowners deduct interest paid on their equity loans.

Elections that do not deal with substantive issues will not produce the mandate needed to address them. A national debate over health care reforms, I’m afraid, will have to await the 2008 presidential election.

We also heard many complaints about the economy in this election when, in fact, the economy is doing pretty well. A majority of Americans apparently didn’t think so, but a Pew poll just before Election Day said 44 percent of Americans rated the economy excellent or good, with most of the rest calling it fair or poor.

It was hard to reconcile the public’s sour election year mood about the economy when we saw the unemployment rate falling to a low 4.4 percent in October. Some states don’t have it so good, of course, like Michigan or Mississippi. where the jobless rate is more than 7 percent. But the overall job picture remains quite good — there are labor shortages in many areas — from health care to agriculture.

The country’s broader economic health chart remains strong, too, says David Malpass, chief economist at Bear, Stearns & Co. He points to strong tax receipts through October (which is shrinking the budget deficit faster than anyone imagined), continued business profit growth and stock market gains that are going through the roof, putting additional wealth in worker pension funds. Hourly earnings increased a stronger-than-expected 0.4 percent in October, rising 3.9 percent over last year.

“We anticipate solid economic growth at least into the first part of 2007,” he told his clients last week. But many Democrats who won Tuesday will be coming to Washington thinking the economy needs fixing. Nancy Pelosi wants to raise taxes on investors, the people who have been financing the nation’s economic expansion. Others want to push the minimum wage to more than $7 in one fell swoop, crushing small businesses and eliminating a lot of entry level jobs in the process.

Democratic adviser James Carville, in a strategy letter to party activists and officials last week, said the core of the Democrat’s economic agenda was to “kick the crony-capitalists” out of Congress. So now the Democrats oppose free market capitalism, too? Hold on to your wallet, because Mr. Carville — a successful capitalist in the seven-figure political lobbying business — and his party want to tax more of what you have.

Speaking of people who are against capitalism, the economic system that has made America the strongest economy on the planet, I did not hear any Democrats talk about “economic growth” in their campaigns.

Growth has to be at the center of any discussion about job creation, new business formation and allowing workers to create wealth. But the Pelosi Democrats’ agenda seems to be anti-growth.

Corporate profits? Tax them harder. Oil exploration to make us energy independent? Impose disincentives to explore, drill and refine by taxing them more. Small business people who are just getting started and want to hire more workers? Impose a job-killing higher minimum wage that makes expansion unaffordable. Stock dividends that provide retired workers with pension income? Raise taxes on that, too.

It is of course impossible to predict what will actually happen in the next Congress, but according to my count, the bad ideas outnumber the good ones.

Donald Lambro, chief political correspondent of The Washington Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide