Last night was a huge and historical night for Republicans, but what does it mean? Will we see massive changes in Washington? Will key pieces of Health Care be repealed? Will the economy suddenly get better? The answer of course is no, but with split government we should get a good bit of gridlock. The business community certainly needs a chance to catch its collective breath and absorb all the massive changes that happened the past two years, and this gridlock should be a positive.
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As I started to put together a list of what this election means, I stumbled upon an excellent bullet point summary by Kiplinger. I found their list to be spot on with my thoughts. If you desire to read the article, here is the link.
Here is a rundown of what this election means to you:
•An extension of the Bush tax cuts -- a temporary one lasting a year or two -- keeping marginal rates at current levels. Another fix for the alternative minimum tax is certain. A compromise on the estate tax seems likely -- one of the few moves to the middle that stands a better chance than before. The Obama tax cuts (included in the 2009 stimulus), which gave middle class Americans more money and temporarily hiked some special credits, will be allowed to expire in January as planned. That will mean a tax hike for some.
•Lower government spending, but the cuts won’t put much of a crimp in the overall national debt. Democratic plans to spend more on education, railroads, highways, green tech, job retraining and more will be stopped cold or reversed. Safety net programs -- unemployment, Medicaid and the like -- will get less money, though no gutting is likely.
•No repeal of the health law. Republicans will make a big push for repeal, as promised, but they won’t get anywhere. More likely to succeed are attempts to rein in regulators by balking at funding for parts of the law. But Democrats will still have enough votes -- and a White House veto -- to keep the changes to a minimum. Rather than assume the law will go away or be gutted, it’ll make more sense for employers and individuals to figure out how to adapt to it.
•More, not fewer, business regulations. Companies worked hard to get a GOP House, hoping to stop the Obama administration’s aggressive approach to federal regulation, but business interests may not be happy with the result. Odds are the White House will try to do an end run around a Congress that won’t pass the legislation it wants. Plus, the constant fighting spells increased uncertainty for businesses, making long-term planning difficult.
•Little for labor. As big losers in the election, unions face certain disappointment. For example, no card check legislation is likely, not even a watered-down compromise. The National Labor Relations Board and the Labor Department will push some regulatory and legal changes that would help unions and improve worker safety, but every move will be hard fought, and compromises may be necessary.
•No climate change legislation. Congressional action will be impossible, but the Environmental Protection Agency will push ahead with rules. The GOP will try to stall, with better results than on health care -- but not much better.
•Minimal policy changes in banking or housing. Republicans will give lip service to repealing this year’s regulatory bill, but they won’t mount a serious try. They may delay the confirmations of key administration officials and otherwise try to slow implementation, with minimal results. More likely: A successful push to overhaul Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which could have big implications for housing markets.
•No significant changes to Social Security or Medicare. The President’s debt commission will likely put entitlement reform on the agenda for the next Congress, but an agreement is very unlikely before the 2012 presidential elections.
•At least a temporary boost in the stock market. Markets typically rise after midterm elections, but if gridlock persists, that will start to weigh them down.
The bottom line: Less change than voters may have thought they were getting. Republicans will be less able to deliver as they lack control of congress. President Obama won’t be able to muscle through sizeable initiatives, but neither will Republicans. Both parties only have enough power to say no. Voters who want a government that sits on the sidelines more often will be pleased. Those who want the two parties to stop bickering and work together on the country’s big problems will be disappointed.