The election, and, hopefully the shouting, is now over. The American voters have left us with a Democratic president and Senate and a Republican House. We are back to the days where the parties must work together if they are to govern.
President Obama has taken the first step toward a calmer atmosphere by asking eight leaders from each party to come break bread together. The White House meal is set for Nov. 18.
This is going to be a meeting in which I want us to talk substantively about how we can move the American peoples agenda forward, the President told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.
The problem will be in defining that agenda. Each party will have a different view. Both want to reduce the deficit and create jobs. The Republicans will want to repeal or significantly change the new health care program passed earlier in the year.
Then there is the war in Afghanistan. The looming retirement of baby boomers and the pressure this will place on Social Security and Medicare is now a reality. There are the costs of federal worker pensions, farm programs and a host of entitlements.
The rhetoric of a campaign about no new taxes while also pledging to drastically cut federal spending must change to action.
Can we end the war? If so, how and at what price? Will this enable a drastic cut in defense spending? Clearly this must happen if we are to balance the budget this year as some of the more conservative, tea party-oriented Republicans will demand.
It also will require a significant cutback in spending on social services and entitlements. Defense and entitlements make up the biggest slices of federal spending.
Can we create jobs in the private sector by cutting them in the public sector? Government workers at the state and local level are already headed down. Just watch what is about to happen in Oregon where a balanced budget is required. School staffs have already been reduced. A prison was recently closed in Salem.
Will we cut federal spending on child health care? Will we reduce the money being spent on highways and bridges? Will we cut the student loan programs? What about the Forest Service and money spent on the BPA and alternative energy programs? Will we cut the number of auditors for the Internal Revenue Service?
What about the money spent on Homeland Security, levees to protect New Orleans and other major cities? Federal money that goes to research universities such as Oregon and Oregon State to support everything from finding cures for cancer to new ways of fighting crop pests may need to be on the table. What will become of NASA and space programs?
Should all federal workers take a pay cut? What about cost of living increases for miltary and federal pensions?
The group meeting with the President will need to decide whether the death tax or inheritance tax will be allowed to spring back from zero this year to the level that existed a decade ago. Nobody expects this to happen. But that is what will happen in January if no action is taken.
Some newly elected Republicans vow to prevent an increase in the federal debt ceiling. That ultimately will shut down government, unless the deficit is eliminated fast. Will we default on the federal debt?
The list goes on and on. This is the hard stuff of running the government.
We can hope that both parties will cool the rhetoric now and actually start compromising and working together. That has happened in the past when the House and Senate were controlled by different parties. Maybe that is what it takes.
The food served at the meal must be sweet and calming. Perhaps a good glass of Oregon wine would help.
One clear message the voters are sending is that it is time, in fact, past time, for government at all levels to start putting the nations problems ahead of party or personal political agendas.
Our nation is at war. It has a huge deficit problem. Nearly 10 perent or more of its eligible work force is unemployed. Many more want jobs. Our manufacturing and high-tech jobs are slipping away to China, India and other countries.
Let us hope that among the group of politicians that we just sent to Washington are a large number of statesmen more interested in the health of the country and its citizens than their political party or the next election.