No Labels? No thanks

The better answer is to end the gridlock by electing a president and a Congress controlled by the same party


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With lots of hoopla, and a forest of road signs, the group calling itself “No Labels” is planning a major event on Oct. 12 at the Manchester Radisson and looking for a big turnout. Their goal is to rise above the present extreme partisanship of today’s politics.

I even got a well-crafted invitation in the mail, which included a promotion for me, since it was addressed to “Senator Backus.” (I’m only a lowly state representative.)

The group is led by former presidential aspirants Jon Huntsman, Republican, and Joe Lieberman, Democrat. It certainly can take advantage of the disgust most Americans feel about our divided, and therefore dysfunctional, government, especially in Washington. The idea that we can just dispense with political labels, red or blue, and all get along is a siren song that may appeal to many.

No Labels states it has four objectives that no one can –- or at least should – object to. They are: create over 25 million new jobs in 10 years, save Social Security for another 75 years, make America energy secure by 2024, balance the budget by 2030. I’m not even sure I agree with the last goal, but in any event, even if we agree these goals are worthy, the problem of course is deciding how to accomplish them.

Does this require a more active government, or a shrunken public sector? Does it require new revenue or tax cuts? Should we use deficit spending, which may make achieving the balanced budget goal tough to attain, in order to get the 25 million new jobs? Can we achieve energy security by 2024 without massive government subsidies that may make achieving the budget goal less likely? And so on.

When No Labels gets down to tackling these issues, it will quickly find it has No Solutions.

For me, the better answer is to end the gridlock in Washington by electing a president and a Congress controlled by the same party. When Barack Obama had a majority of his party in control of Congress, we got the first successful effort in nearly a century to expand health care coverage to the vast majority of Americans. This was followed by 51 entirely futile votes to repeal it when the Republicans regained control of the House in 2010.

When FDR had a Congress of the same party we got Social Security. When LBJ had a Congress of the same party we got Medicare. Perhaps the red team have a few examples of their own.

I would further note that for most democracies, if the leader of the government loses his legislative majority, the government falls and a new election is held. So the government always has a governing majority. This is the system in, among others countries, Great Britain and Canada.

An alternative could be to have a responsible opposition party that is willing to work to improve presidential initiatives rather than engage in blind ideological opposition to each and every one, so that even if we again elect a divided government some things can be done.

In short, I’m not anxious to abandon my blue label. I’m proud of it and I think if the voters will elect a blue president and a blue Congress, good things will happen.

Bob Backus, a Manchester Democrat, is a member of the NH House.

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