Outside editorial: Put away the rancor

Posted: Monday, November 08, 2010

The following editorial first appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

This election was about the economy, yes, but also Washington's failure to come together to ease the pain for average Americans. That must change.

Here's the lay of the land: A GOP House of Representatives; a Democratic U.S. Senate, by a now slimmer margin; a Democratic president with a veto; tea party favorites talking about forming their own caucus; and resurgent Republicans talking about rolling back key initiatives.

Add, just around the corner, the backdrop of another election, with the White House and more congressional seats at stake. What we have here is a recipe for gridlock.

It must not happen and it need not.

President Barack Obama struck the right note in a speech on Wednesday, calling for bipartisan cooperation and acknowledging the new D.C. dynamics spawned by Tuesday's election.

"No one party will be able to dictate where we go from here," he said. "No person, no party has a monopoly on wisdom." He called for a search for "common ground."

Right. It would be overdue. Bringing civility to Washington was part of what he promised in his election two years ago. We're confident there is plenty of common ground to be found, if everyone is serious about governance rather than posturing for 2012.

Health care reform was obviously a big issue in this campaign, with Republican candidates, including those in Wisconsin, incorrectly characterizing it as government-run health care. We would not like to see repeal but more has to be done to bring down health care costs. Current reform deals with fee for service far too tepidly.

On taxes, the president has wanted to extend only those Bush tax cuts for middle-class families, those earning below $250,000. How about raising that ceiling to, say, $1 million and at least a moratorium on re-installing the rest.

On federal spending, we note that public employees throughout the country have had to withstand furloughs because of upside-down budgets, though not federal employees. This would be a good starting point. But other more serious deficit reductions, including the Pentagon and serious discussion on entitlement spending, have to be on the table as well.

This election was mostly about the economy but clearly the president and Democrats did a poor job of selling their solutions.

The GOP successfully parlayed this failure into charges of Democratic "overreaching" that resonated with many voters. But, a caution for Republicans here: Much as with wisdom, neither does either party have a monopoly on the ability to overreach.

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