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The work ahead

Posted: November 4, 2010 5:57 p.m.
Updated: November 5, 2010 5:00 a.m.

Unlike 1994, when a Republican landslide was somewhat of a surprise, Tuesday’s GOP tsunami had been widely predicted by pollsters, nearly all of whom had detected a wave of discontent among voters weary of partisanship and a stagnant economy. Kershaw County voters reacted as did their counterparts across the country, helping to toss out longtime 5th District Congressman John Spratt. Camden’s Vincent Sheheen was one of the few Democrats to fare well here, along with county officials Harriett Pierce and Robin Watkins.

Most Americans tread a bit to the right or left of center, but the political parties have become dominated by those on the far reaches of those two spectrums. If the country is going to escape the situation in which it now finds itself, Republicans and Democrats are going to have to abandon their intractable positions and begin to work together. That won’t be easy. In the past few years, they have become more and more polarized, but it’s clear that’s not what voters want.

The widening deficit certainly played a major role in the election, and it is probably the single greatest threat facing the country. Liberals like to say we simply need to increase taxes (especially on high-income Americans) while conservatives are fond of saying we can solve our problems by “cutting spending.” Details of that are usually missing. Pragmatists in between know the truth: that we cannot get the budget under control until there is more tax revenue (political liability number one) and a change in the two biggest entitlements programs, Social Security and Medicare (political liability number two).

A bipartisan deficit reduction commission is currently at work trying to come up with solutions. Realistic Americans believe there probably will have to be some sort of tax increase, along with an adjustment in the ages at which people begin to receive Social Security and Medicare benefits. Do we like that? Of course not. Can the budget be balanced without it? No.

But the first step is for members of both parties to try to lay aside their philosophical differences and do what the voters have sent them to Washington to do: tame the deficit and work for the will of the people.

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