Regardless of party affiliation, Tuesday's election result offers a clear and incontrovertible message for Washington's power corridors: voters expect (and in many cases, are demanding) consensus ideas and policies that will help limit the size of government, grow our nation's economy and create jobs. Failure to heed this warning will likely mean a repeat of the 2010 cycle, an even more polarized electorate, and most importantly, a weaker economy and workforce two short years from now.
Consider the following: Six in 10 voters named the economy as the nation's No.1 problem, according to exit polls released Tuesday by the Associated Press. About three in four voters expressed disapproval of how Congress is doing its job. According to the Wall Street Journal, independents favored Democrats by 18 points in 2006 and Republicans by 15 points Tuesday (an extraordinary shift).
Every time one party handily defeats the other (e.g. 2002, 2006 and 2008), it's hard to envision a path to consensus. However, as most pundits and analysts agree, voters' patience quickly evaporated this past cycle. and this phenomenon is likely to continue with an increasingly independent electorate. Far too many times, Washington has focused on what makes political sense in the short term and not what will keep our nation competitive and growing 5-10 years down the road.
It's becoming increasingly clear that broad government spending, tax policy tweaks, and make-work job programs will not, alone, spur the level of economic growth that we need. Rather, it's time that Congress and the administration embrace an entirely new agenda and direction, one that emphasizes bipartisan and pro-growth policies that, a decade from now, will be credited with lifting the United States out of this prolonged period of economic malaise.
Nowhere is there a better opportunity to do so than innovation spurred by information and communications technology (ICT). ICT ushered in new industries and thousands of jobs in the 1980s, the Internet and eCommerce in the 1990s, and the ideas and technologies that power the collaboration and communication we depend on every day. In the end, smart policies matter, and our nation's priorities going forward must include overhauling the corporate tax code to provide incentives for innovation, renewing and expanding the federal research and development (R&D) tax credit, widening the availability of broadband Internet to reach more Americans, eliminating barriers to global trade markets, and using next-generation technologies to reduce our carbon footprint.
With Tuesday behind us, it's time to set aside the political rhetoric and focus on what's practical in the short term, what makes sense in the long term and, above all, what's necessary to return our nation to an uninterrupted path of economic growth and competitiveness.
High-tech, the foundational element of all industries, offers a bipartisan and fail-proof blueprint that voters will universally accept in 2012.