November 10, 2012
One of the big news stories of the past week that kind of got buried by that other stuff came from pretty close to home. Deer hunters in Provo Canyon, not too far below Deer Creek, reported seeing a frightening hairy monster lurking in the woods. They approached and took a short video before the hideous thing moved and they ran away.
Initial reports were that they had spotted a Democrat. But upon thorough investigation, authorities determined it was a sasquatch. Everybody knows that Democrats in Utah are imaginary.
So here we are, cleaning up the campaign signs and trying to figure out where we go from here. Each side in the presidential race spent nearly a billion dollars on the election. Their messages were strangely similar: The other guy is an ass. They certainly convinced me.
There was little real discussion of policy. Romney kept his tax-reform plan a secret right to the end. We will never know. Obama persisted with his position that raising taxes on the richest Americans will solve everything. While I think it’s the right thing to do, it isn’t even a good start at dealing with the fact that our finances and expectations are unsustainable. Major and unpleasant changes are needed.
Despite Obama’s decisive electoral win (and not-so-decisive total vote count), nothing really changed. The House is still held by a Republican majority with a Tea Party tinge to it. The Senate is still theoretically Democrat, but mired in that netherworld where everything can be filibustered, so nothing will get done. Obama has four years, no more and no less. Without a reelection possibility, he no longer needs to be nice to Congress, which has never been nice to him.
The first real test is the "fiscal cliff." This was the deal that congressmen imposed on themselves in an effort to make them do their job. The deal is that the Bush-era tax cuts will expire on December 31. At the same time, a package of arbitrary spending cuts will kick in. Most economists agree that the combined effect will be another deep recession. These are automatic unless Congress and the president can agree on something different before the end of the year.
It’s a little bit like setting a time bomb in your basement that will blow the house to smithereens unless you vacuum on Saturday. Then, just for dramatic effect, Congress cut the cord off the vacuum and went on vacation. Tick, tock, tick, tock. Will the lame-duck Congress find some MacGyver solution or does it blow? Let’s see, in the last four years they couldn’t agree on anything. So now, in the toxic glow of this radioactive election season, we’re going to assume there will be a Kum-Bah-Ya moment and they strike the "grand bargain" that puts us on the path to reform. Right.
The war was AWOL in the election. Both Romney and Obama seemed committed to exiting Afghanistan at the end of 2014. Two more years. There was no discussion about what we will accomplish in that time. What will be different as a result of spending two more years there, as opposed to leaving yesterday. Soldiers are dying every day. It would have been polite to at least explain what for, or what we will accomplish in another two years that makes that sacrifice necessary.
The state and local races seemed a little disconnected from reality. It’s a sure bet that part of managing the federal budget problems will be shutting off the spigot of federal money flowing to the states and localities. I never did understand what part of the Constitution makes it a federal responsibility to build apartments for Park City’s bus drivers, or pay a big share of the cost to operate a free bus system to shuttle wealthy vacationers from their hotels to the slopes. But when those funds go away, the city and county will have to make them up or slash services. We had candidates on the "tax = bad" bandwagon pull significant votes. Maybe, while we are stuck in a snowdrift waiting for the private sector to clear the snow from I-80, we can all take the time to re-read "Atlas Shrugged." Nobody wants to hear it, but we are eventually going to have to pay for what we get. Taxes are going up.
There was no satisfaction in this election. It was all smoke and noise, and when the dust settles, nothing will have changed.
This begins my 27th year in this corner of your paper. Other jobs and even other careers have come and gone over the years. Thanks for indulging me with a little of your time each week. It’s been great fun for me.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.