As we start the New Year, the mainstream press and blogosphere are remarkably consistent in their storyline.
Republicans want a Restoration, a return to a time of limited government, when big businesses and embattled individualists united against unwise spending for the other guy.
After a shellacking, President Obama is course-correcting, wooing Big Business, taking for granted his base, all with an eye toward 2012.
Americans could be forgiven for thinking that politicians judge success by tallies at the ballot box and decibels on the blogosphere rather than jobs produced and economic security delivered. It is certainly the product being pushed by many journalists and bloggers.
The truth is a little different.
When it comes to the economy, Republicans and Democrats share much more than they let on -- a shared appreciation of the TARP and also the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's programs that promoted public-private co-investment in infrastructure and energy.
The alphabet soup programs that rescued the economy from the brink and built the foundation of private sector strength entering into 2011 were all bipartisan at their core -- from TARP to ARRA, from BABs to P3s, from CREBs to Non-AMT-PABs, and so on. Even when Republicans withheld support on the floor of Congress, they grabbed money for infrastructure, energy, businesses, and financial institutions off the table.
Along with colleagues at the Center on Law & Public Finance, I issued a report recently -- Reinvesting in America: The Bi-Partisan Build America Bonds -- explaining how this works. Our point was further explained and reinforced in the Atlantic, BNA, Bond Buyer, Reuters, Salon, and Think Progress.
Bipartisan consensus in the New Year will not be forged on the burying of the Stimulus Act. Instead, it is being built upon investments made possible by the recapitalization of our TARP banks, the creation of effective bond programs such as BABs, the cash in lieu of credits for clean energy production, etc. Our TARP banks and these programs brought money to much needed job-producers like the North Tarrant Expressway in Texas, the Metro Line to Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia, sewer system repairs across the country, and the Seismic Retrofit of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
None of this is cause for celebration or complacency. Our job market is too sorry for that, the end-of-year bonuses to high. The balance sheets of our states, localities, businesses and individuals remain largely over-levered -- we struggle for effective vehicles to facilitate productive investment as we de-lever. However, as tempting and intoxicating stories of Republican Restoration and Democratic Triangulation may be, it is far more important to figure out how we can use TARP banks to reinvest in our real economy, identify ways in which the tax code actually creates jobs, and highlight how we solve real problems together across party lines even as we disagree over big philosophies.
It may even be -- heaven forbid -- that Congresswoman Pelosi is passing the baton to Congressman Boehner.