Thursday, November 19, 2009

Okay, now what?

As a result of this month’s elections, Virginians now have split government.

At the state level The Party That Has No Intention of Governing represents us and at the national level The Party That Is Afraid to Govern represents us.

At the state level, that might work out okay over the next four years.

Based on the most recent reports of tax revenue collected, the Fiscal Year 2010 budget is going to be at least $1.6 billion out of balance when the General Assembly convenes in January. Once that problem is fixed, we can look forward to continuing budget gaps in the FY 2011-12 budget, which will be passed this year. The shortfalls in that budget could reach $3 billion by the end of the biennium, unless the economy turns around more forcefully than anyone is now predicting.

In that climate, there’s not going to be much governing done. So voters may have put the right party in charge by electing Bob McDonnell governor and leaving a Republican majority in control of the House of Delegates.

The next governor and General Assembly are going to have to go at the budget with a hatchet. Both the previous Democratic governor’s Mark Warner and Tim Kaine had to go through rounds of budget cuts – but at least Republicans should enjoy it.

Because, according to their political rhetoric, they are the party that wants a smaller government that does less.

Now is their chance.

Those nagging problems that the state has faced for a decade, like transportation funding, teacher salaries, mental health funding, low unemployment compensation?

Forget about them.

At least for the next four years.
While “Bob for Jobs” McDonnell ran on a promise to improve job creation in Virginia, there’s not much any governor of Virginia can do on that front.

Spending on roads might create jobs in the state. But since he’s ruled out the only common sense approach to road financing, increasing the state’s gas tax, don’t expect too many roads to get built on McDonnell’s watch. The only other feasible approach to road funding would be tolls, but it’s unlikely either the new governor on the legislature has the stomach for the number and cost of the tolls it would take to make up for 20 years of highway neglect. During the campaign, McDonnell proposed tolling only the northbound lanes of I-95 and I-95 at the North Carolina border. That won’t get it done. We’d need tolls on all the interstate highways, and probably on all the crossings in Hampton Roads. That wouldn’t be politically popular. So it won’t get done.

Republicans don’t like government, but they like politics.

Democrats used to love government. But now, with the White House and big majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate, they can’t find the courage to govern.

Moderate Democrats in swing districts are so fearful of the 25-30% of the population that agrees with the crazies in the Tea Party movement that they are wasting the biggest electoral mandate since Reagan.

This isn’t the way it’s supposed to work, guys.

You came to power with enough votes to make Obama’s platform – the one that got him elected by a landslide and pulled most of you guys along with him – a reality. But you’re blowing it.

It’s not Republicans who are holding up health care reform, it’s gutless Democrats. Democrats had enough votes to pass health care reform far better than the rather timid programs currently on the table. They had the votes to guarantee every American the same automatic access to health care enjoyed by the citizens of every other civilized country on earth, as well as recipients of Medicare, members of the military and members of Congress here in our own country.

But they let that slip away because they were intimidate by a few angry white haters and screamers who showed up at some rigged town hall meetings.

So instead we’ll get, at best, tinkering around the edges of our broken health insurance system. An all-too-rare opportunity to actually fix a long-standing problem has been squandered.

Democrats also seem afraid to lead on closing the Guantanamo Bay facility, on holding those responsible for 9/11 accountable in courts of law, on writing legislation to punish those in the financial sector responsible for the crash and to make sure it never happens again and on winding down our commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq.

All the things we elected them to do.

They should have stormed into Washington like the Mongolian Horde and steamrolled the meager Republican opposition into defeat and changed the direction of the country.

Instead, they’ve hemmed and hawed and paid heed to the dumbest 20% of the country, spurred on in their ignorance by fake grassroots Tea Parties, Fox News right wing talking heads, Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney. Those people lost the last election. Why are they being listened to, while those who won are being ignored?

Maybe Democrats forgot what to do with power in the years they were without it.

If they don’t remember soon, they won’t have it long.

Next year the Republicans will have the opportunity to take back the U.S. House.

While we’ll survive four years of The Party That Won’t Govern in Virginia, it’s way past time for some effective, energetic government out of Washington.

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