Monday, December 18, 2006

Policy Optimism - Or Pipe Dreams?

My friend Ron over at RWorld is concerned that the media and the electorate are overly focused on the 2008 presidential race to the detriment of interest in the policy decisions of the next congressional session. True, the celebrity candidates are getting a lot of attention, but I'm hopeful that the heat is on our representatives and our president to get some big things done next year. It has to be next year, since 2008 will bring nothing but electioneering.

Why am I optimistic? Several reasons. Bush will have no legacy except disaster in Iraq unless some major policy issues are settled during his reign. The republican legislators have been roundly criticized as presiding over the most "do nothing congress" in many years, and that failure was certainly a big factor in the November elections. And the democrats have got to show some vigor in 2007, or their ascention to power will be viewed as pointless. Perhaps the constellations are lined up right for a change!

The big question is: which policy issues have sufficient bi-partisan support to clear all three power centers? Embryonic stem cell research reform may be passed over Bush's veto. An immigrant amnesty bill probably has enough support to get through all the hurdles. Minimum wage uplift is a lock. Much work has already been done on Social Security and Medicare reform, so expect at least some action on one or both of these. If balance of trade talks with China don't move forward, legislative initiatives will come forward to, at a minimum, embarass the administration. There's a good chance that public concern about global warming will force another energy bill, higher CAFE standards, or some kind of tax carrot-stick approach to motivate migration to lower carbon-producing transportation. I'll bet my readers have a list that includes other potential policy breakthroughs.

One area where I don't see potential for progress is the tax code. The republicans and democrats are just too far apart in their basic approach to the economy.

RWorld recently posted a prediction that the blogosphere is gathering steam and has much potential to grow in popularity and influence. I agree with him. The bloggers will not stand for congressional inaction, and they will mobilize their digital armies to hammer the presidential hopefuls into actually doing something that will justify elevating them in 2008. Or am I only dreaming?


Ron said...

Your optimism is so much healthier than my kvetching about the apparent fast forward to "election 2008!" to which the mainstream media has seemed to shift its focus.

One of the things that I love about the blogosphere is that I finally get to meet my ideological neighbors - people who may live thousands of miles away. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I think a confused and convoluted tax code is exactly what the politicians and corporations want. A sleek, simple, easy-to-understand tax code would not have loopholes, and if politicians can't provide loopholes, corporations won't provide campaign donations.

Overall, I'm much more pessimistic than you.

The last time the minimum wage went up a buck an hour, they raised rents here by $40 a week. The money that was meant to help the working poor went instead to the wealthy landlords.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose…

Life Hiker said...

Democracy is an extremely messy system, and it tends to work best only when there is a real crisis - politics take a back seat to practicality for a change.

Our current problems are major, but they have not escalated to crisis proportions, so politics reigns at least for now.

The challenge for our legislators is to face reality and do something about it. Unfortunately, Thomas LB is probably right. But I still have hope.

1138 said...

Oh, there's more than Iraq for a legacy.
There's the shattered US Gulf Coast, there's the busted financial status of the Federal government and the nation, theres the balance of trade deficit, foreign debt, trashed Constitution, loss of American infulence in the world, and generally sad condition of the office he has soiled.

No Mr. Bush has one HELL of a legacy even if Iraq were erased by some form of magic.

Life Hiker said...

Yeah, I guess I left out a few things. It is Christmas time, you know!

Those other screwups happened on Bush's watch, but he's got a lot of company (e.g., congress) when it comes to assigning responsibility for them.

Iraq is the decision that he is solely responsible for, and the one that will define his presidency as a tragedy.