DICK GEPHARDT, the former House Leader, often said that "elections have consequences" and that they always "carry messages."
The consequence of the elections just past is pretty obvious. Despite nearly $6 billion (!) having been spent on all of the federal races, we still have the makings of further partisan gridlock.
Yet the message to the new Congress from the electorate is nonetheless quite precise: somehow, get on with an immediate comprehensive effort aimed at rebuilding our middle class economy. And a thoughtful look at how the elections played out in the swing states suggests what that economic agenda should look like.
There a majority of the voters understood the imperative of bailing out the auto industry and committed themselves to a future that still includes manufacturing as a cornerstone of a balanced economy. And in doing so, they and a majority of voters throughout the country rejected the philosophy that government plays no constructive role in our economy, clearly preferring instead that, when needed, it help protect and foster high quality jobs which meet the diverse needs of our society.
If Congress listens to this message, it will develop and pursue an agenda based on the core economic premises that:
* Near-term large-scale job creation through government stimulus efforts on the one hand, and long-term deficit cutting on the other, are not mutually exclusive.
* Government does create good jobs, millions of them in fact.
* And government cannot continue to gut the principle of progressive individual taxation without further eviscerating the middle class.
Well-conceived employment stimulus efforts are, because of their very large multiplier effects, at least deficit neutral in the medium term and, most likely, substantially deficit reducing. Thus Congress doesn't have to choose between stimulus and austerity--it just has to get each challenge's priority and timing right. And when it does, it will also be able to find responsible pathways to resolving the recommendations of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (i.e., Simpson-Bowles), major entitlement reform, and the pending 'fiscal cliff.'
Implicit in achieving this balance, however, must be immediately resuscitating and then materially growing our depleted manufacturing sector.
Over the past 12 years, U.S. manufacturers have cut 31% of their workforce, or nearly 6 million workers, and manufacturers' contribution to GDP has...