Congratulations to the newly elected and re-elected, and to the ordinary citizens who voted for winning candidates. Now, while the glow is still warm, is when we all need a dose of reality. We are unlikely to get it, however, because there are at least five truths that our newly elected and newly re-elected statewide and national representatives know but that they will not tell us, because if they did, we'd never vote for them again.
One. No matter what I and my colleagues do in Washington, Hartford, Albany, Boston, and capitals west, the economy is not going to recover any time soon, and unemployment will remain quite high. We can provide stimuli; we can cut business and personal taxes and offer tax credits; we can slash government regulations; but none of it will help very much. All surveys of what business owners need to hire more people show that what holds them back is lack of customers. And without more customers, the economy is stagnant. That will not change unless more people have jobs. The U.S. has lost its manufacturing sector, and the service sector cannot provide the sort of jobs that sustain growth, which pay at least double the minimum wage. Our country will have unacceptably high unemployment, probably until the entire baby boom generation retires, making room for younger people to take their jobs.
Two. Your taxes are going up. No matter what platform I ran on - fiscal austerity, cutting taxes, "starve the beast" of the federal government, only pay-as-you-go programs - you will have to cough up more in the future, especially if your family income is below $250,000 per year. If your federal taxes are reduced, then your state taxes will rise; if your state taxes are slashed, then your local taxes will rise. Government is expensive, but it is also essential to keep the country running. Do you want your hospital there when you need it? To have downed trees removed from the road? To have the bureaucratic machinery in place to pay out on Social Security? To have schools for your children and grandchildren that don't cost $20,000 a semester? To have the country protected by the armed forces? The U.S citizen pays, in the aggregate, fewer taxes per earned dollar than the citizens of most other industrialized nations, but governments cannot operate without income. We may cut services, but, among other obligations, ours to our retired governmental employees - bureaucrats, school teachers, policemen, firemen, etc. - will continue to be there, and must be funded. And did I mention the cost of sustaining all of those Iraq and Afghanistan wounded veterans for the rest of their lives?
Three. My health care, as a high government official, will continue to be much better than yours as an ordinary citizen. The knowledge and the wherewithal to provide very good health care to everyone, on the level of what is provided to members of congress and to high state officials in many states, is available and not all that costly, but it would have to be run by either a government-controlled monopoly or a government agency, and very few people want to see that happen.
Four. Large-scale American combat operations in Afghanistan will continue until at least 2016. You in the electorate have not shown any willingness to force us officials to end the war in Afghanistan, and without such pressure we are unable to resist the carrots and sticks of those who make money from the military. And if Iran looks like it is going to expand its reach, we may very well go to war there too, as very few of us elected officials will have the courage to object to another war. Then there's the QDR, the Quadrennial Defense Review, which tells us that the U.S. will likely have to take on China in the next couple of decades, so we'll need to spend a trillion or two of your tax dollars acquiring weapons for that eventuality.
Five. Your opinion matters very little to me. As a high-level elected representative, I need to take in $5,000 a day, every day, until the next election day. I need it for my campaign chest, or else I am likely to be outspent by my next opponent. Therefore, any one or any group that does not have a substantial contribution to give is unlikely to have much access to me, or if they do manage to get me to listen to their complaints, to move me to help them. I'll continue to work hard for my large donors and to ignore the rest of you who voted for me.
Cross-posted at The Lakeville Journal