We can govern in the people’s interest or make a lot of pointless noise. I hope we choose wisely.
Depending on the outcome of several key races, the Republican Party could soon have control of one or both houses of Congress. Robert Frost and politics don’t really mix, but his famous allegory is apt: Two roads diverge before this potential GOP majority. The one “less travelled by” would be to pass bills that would make things better for the American people. The more tempting and historically more frequented road would be to pursue pointless investigations, messaging bills, threats and government shutdowns. The road we choose could make “all the difference.”
Exit polls of voters confirmed that inflation remains a top voter concern. Midterm campaigns largely focused on assigning blame for rising prices. Now, beyond crossing our fingers that the Federal Reserve will fix the problem, Congress can actually help by increasing legal immigration, expanding the number of work visas in sectors that face worker shortages, securing the border, reducing tariffs on our allies, facilitating oil, gas, nuclear and renewable development, and reining in spending.
Excessive spending and the deficit have been the Republican Party’s bugaboo for years. But like the Democrats, we shy away from telling the American people the truth that the spending problem isn’t primarily due to the annual budget. Two-thirds of federal spending isn’t even voted on by Congress. Rather, it is automatic “nondiscretionary” spending on entitlements, such as Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, and on servicing the debt. It’s this spending that is growing faster than the economy. No amount of trimming what the federal government allocates for defense, education, the environment or housing will be enough to bring our books into balance.
Excessive spending not only adds to the national debt, it is highly stimulative and inflationary. The Fed has its foot on the brakes while the administration and Congress are flooring the gas pedal.
If Congress wants to slow inflation, both parties will need to work together to find solutions to the entitlement crisis. It isn’t rocket science. Some mix of changes to revenues, benefits and eligibility is necessary along with a promise that no program will be eliminated and current and near-retirees won’t be affected.
The immigration mess also figured prominently in the midterms. Politicians have railed at the broken system for 25 years but have done almost nothing to fix it. We need new legal immigrants—at least a million a year to keep the population from declining—but continuing to accommodate the open border means more fentanyl, more gang violence and an overwhelming burden on border states. I asked a leading Democrat why his party hasn’t acted to secure the border, especially since its failure to do so gives my party a huge advantage in swing states such as Arizona and Nevada. His answer: “You don’t understand the power of the immigration lobby.” Madness.
If Congress wants to solve the immigration mess, it will need to reach a bipartisan deal. Political courage is the rare but critical commodity we need.
Most Americans are worried about climate change. But they are also smart enough to know that our current climate and energy policies are absurd. Yes, Americans are generally on board with renewables, electric cars and insulation. But they know that those actions alone won’t make any difference in global emissions. China emits more greenhouse gases than the U.S., Europe and Japan combined. What politicians propose to do in the U.S. would cost trillions and amount to only a drop in the global bucket. Further, by closing off coal and penalizing oil and gas before adequate alternatives are even close to being available, politicians are driving up the price of energy and hugely adding to inflation.
To make a difference on climate, Congress should focus on measures to reduce global emissions, not merely our own. That means funding research on technologies that can be adopted around the world, slapping penalties on imports from prolific emitters and giving the private sector incentives to innovate solutions.
Finally, we must address doubts sown by both parties about the integrity of our elections. It comes mostly from the GOP, but Democrats aren’t without sin. Of course there will be isolated irregularities in any election, but there has been no evidence of organized fraud or voter suppression that would have changed the outcome of a recent state or federal race.
The world looks to the U.S. as a model of free and fair elections. If we don’t have faith in our own system, how can we expect democracy to work elsewhere? While authoritarians in Russia and China are advertising an alternative to government of, by and for the people, spouting evidence-free claims of election fraud is stupidly self-defeating and despicable.
Two roads are available. I hope Congress and the White House engage to make a difference rather than to make more noise.
Opinion published in the Wall Street Journal.