This ia a big day for America. By the time most of us go to sleep tonight, we will have elected a new president, or maybe an old president. If we’re lucky, we’ll even be able to find out which one it is! All it takes is one state that’s either too close to call or too dumb to count its ballots (Florida, I’m looking at you, don’t you dare try anything funny this time.) But let’s not forget that free and fair elections are not a small accomplishment. This is huge. So, thank the poll workers when you cast your ballot. And thank God that you live in a place where you have a choice and a voice and a vote. (Also? Voter fraud and voter intimidation are real. If it happens to you today, report it.)
Each of us faces a choice today. To vote, or to sit this one out? And when we vote, Obama or Romney? There might be other names on the ballot, but those are your only two legitimate options for our next president. There are pros and cons to each. One is criticized for being a flip-flopper, and the other is criticized for being a just plain flop. But no matter who wins, Obama will still be the president tomorrow.
Obama will make a very important choice in the next six weeks. The social security payroll tax cuts are set to expire on New Years Day. Obama can either allow them to expire, and thus shrink each worker’s take home pay by 2%, thus effectively negate the 1.7% economic growth we’ve got going – OR, he can allow the tax cuts to continue and keep raiding the social security fund, thus plunging us further into debt.
We’ve been on a wild spending binge for way too long now. We either let the hangover hit (let the tax cuts expire, watch our wimpy economic growth evaporate) or keep drinking (keep spending money we don’t have to pay for social security). The president and Congress must reach an agreement on what to do next, or else the payroll tax cuts will automatically expire. I doubt these people could agree on the proper order of ingredients in a BLT which, for the record, is bacon, tomato, lettuce, and then more bacon, because this is America. But I digress. Agreement is unlikely to happen, especially since neither party really wants the cuts extended, so the payroll tax cuts will probably be kaput. The government will be hungover on New Years Day (just like far too many of its people).
Whoever we inaugurate in January is gonna walk into a government that needs some serious Gatorade and Advil. Romney can either accept his inheritance, and preside over an economy that’s likely to be totally stagnant, at least at first (disappointing all of us) – or, he can try to work with Congress to get the tax cuts reinstated (disappointing some of us, and kicking the can further down the road). Neither option is really any good.
If only we were growing the economy at a higher rate than the taxes would shrink it! Then, the president would not have to choose between shrinking the economy and raiding the Treasury to pay for Social Security. Obama has had four years to get the economy growing at a healthy rate, and he hasn’t done it. Romney will have to 1) win the Presidency, and 2) make real growth happen fast – if we are going to let the tax cuts expire without dragging this country into another recession. This two-pronged job falls somewhere on the difficulty scale between playing MarioKart while blindfolded, and being Lindsay Lohan’s life coach. I do not envy whoever we’re inaugurating in 2013.
If Obama is reelected, he might have a more amiable Congress to work with next year. But that’s very unlikely. And even if it does happen? Democrats in Congress don’t seem interested in extending those tax cuts at all.
Obama’s first and perhaps only term is certainly going to end on a low note. And while it makes so much sense to have a pro-business, pro-growth guy take the reins – there is serious work to be done if we are going to carve anything good out of the options we are looking at now. I’m not saying that it’s impossible. I’m just saying that it’s time to ditch the slogans and the commercials and get serious about this. Neither candidate will have any incentive to hide specifics from us any longer. Tomorrow morning, we need to ask the president what he’s going to do; and then, we need to turn to the president-elect and ask him how he’ll proceed when he takes office. Hey, the votes are in, so you two can actually answer questions now! The campaign will be over. The real work is just beginning.