It has been a long time since there was someone interested in governing the United States of America. For now we are specializing in promotional stunts (essentially all of foreign policy) or deliveries to electoral constituencies (climate change, ACA repeal, white supremacist racism).
Now that we can have no delusions about what Trump represents (pardoning Arpaio was a last straw), the country is in dire need of a way to get through the next 3 ½ years.
So it is worth remembering that there is actually a group in government trying to do something positive for the country. That is the bipartisan group of senators working to fix problems with Obamacare (e.g. number of plans offered). Not only is that a laudable activity for itself (whether or not the results get quashed), but it makes you think about other things a bipartisan group could do. Here is one short list.
– Supreme Court nominees
At this point you don’t have to be a Democrat to recognize that democracy in this country is under threat. We need to decide that a next Supreme Court justice cannot use the war powers clause or anything else to promote legal tyranny. That applies to the role of Congress, to delaying or otherwise manipulating elections, and to Presidential pardons.
– Jobs program subsidies
During the election both candidates spoke about a government role in promoting employment in under-served areas (Appalachia, inner cities, etc.). More recently, Republicans have promoted a deal with Foxcomm that was very heavily subsidized by the state of Wisconsin.
This needs to be a federal program because not all states can do it themselves, because it needs to be planned at a national level, and because a federal program could reduce the leverage employers have in playing off states against each other.
This is another area promoted by both candidates in the election. There are of course significant differences in approach. But it seems that issues such as selection of projects, rules and roles for private investment, and protection against corruption can be solved if there is a will to do it.
This a controversial area, and Trump’s so-called tax reform is not helpful. But there is agreement on at least a couple of points:
- Real tax reform means eliminating the current maze of special gifts to create a more equitable system and a correspondingly lower basic tax rate. That kind of reform was achieved as a bipartisan effort under Reagan. It has little to do with proposals currently on the table, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
- As part of that effort, there is agreement that the basic corporate tax rate is too high. So that seems a good place to start–when accompanied by item #1.
Education is one of the most important services provided by government. Even if De Vos vouchers turn out to be off-limits, there are at least two areas where bipartisan work is possible:
- The student loan crisis is a huge burden on a whole generation. This is not because students have suddenly become wasteful in their habits, but because costs of college have risen rapidly even in state institutions. Government needs to help out.
- Government needs to help students and states to navigate the costs and benefits of educational programs. This is not just a matter of fraudulent institutions and sweetheart deals to vendors (although there is plenty of that). Students need the information to choose for their futures. And we as a country need to decide what equality of opportunity means for the cost of college.
– Foreign Policy
The only foreign policy we currently have is a disdain for employees of the State Department and a desire to exploit foreign issues for chest-beating electoral gestures. It is tough to do foreign policy by committee, but we don’t really have a choice.
This is by no means a complete list, but we have to recognize that government is in crisis and needs a bipartisan effort even to mind the store.
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