After some $6 billion in campaign spending and lots of calls for change, the election leaves us with a new Washington that looks decidedly look the old one: President Obama will remain in the White House and must deal with a Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a Senate under Democratic leadership. Hopefully policymakers will at least have a new attitude because the gridlock and partisanship that has defined Washington as of late will not succeed in overcoming the challenges that lie directly ahead.
Though it did not receive much attention during the election, now that we are at the end of the campaign trail the fiscal cliff is directly in front of us. We must forge a path around it.
Even before all the results were in last night, pundits and politicians started to shift focus towards the fiscal cliff. The attention will only grow as lawmakers will have a short period of time to avoid the year-end event once they return to work next week.
Many economists warn that going over the fiscal cliff would cause a recession. And Fitch Ratings today said that failure to address the fiscal cliff and raise the debt ceiling in a timely manner could result in a credit rating downgrade.
What is being described as a status quo election cannot result in maintaining the status quo in Washington. Our leaders must work together to address the fiscal cliff and the long-term national debt problem.
It’s really not that hard to come up with solutions. Politicians could learn from a seventh-grader in Atlanta, Georgia who writes about the U.S. fiscal situation regularly on his blog. Once leaders put ideas over ideology, progress can be made.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) today called for compromise and said he’s “not for kicking the can down the road.” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) stated that he wants to work with President Obama to avoid the fiscal cliff, though he said the lame duck session of Congress was not enough time and suggested a "down payment" to buy more time for a comprehensive solution.
While Boehner did say he was open to more revenue as a part of a grand bargain, both sides still have a divide to bridge. Reid wants to raise revenue by raising tax rates on the wealthiest Americans while Boehner is against that approach and wants to raise revenue instead through tax reform that closes loopholes and encourages growth.
If policymakers cannot address the fiscal cliff in a responsible way, it will not bode well for tackling other priorities. As the new ad campaign we rolled out today states “Unless we fix the debt, it'll get in the way of the things that matter most."
Update: See the post-election statement from Fix the Debt on the need for bipartisanship to address the fiscal cliff and the long-term national debt.
Correction: A previous version of this post said the campaign cost $2 billion, that was just for the presidential race. Total campaign spending, including other races, was more like $6 billion.