Editor's note: The following commentary was written by Gene Hall, Public Relations Director for the Texas Farm Bureau and was published on the Texas Agriculture Talks website.
President Obama has won re-election. Congratulations, Mr. President. On my Facebook page the past few days, I’ve been asking for some guidance, suggestions on how we might work together as a nation. This is the result.
Obviously some folks are still taking this hard, and winners gloat sometimes, especially in cyberspace. Fair enough, but we had better start thinking about how we can work together, and we are about out of time. I voted for the other guy, and I recognize the need for compromise. Part of that is supporting the president on some of what he wants and expecting to get something in return.
The Texas Farm Bureau Vice President, a farmer, told me on Tuesday night that whoever wins will have the whole country mad at him at different times— if he does this right. There are only difficult choices ahead. No easy ones. Remember the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission? That might be a good place to start. In Canada they’ve adopted a plan to raise taxes $1 for every $5 in spending cuts. We are a nation which collects $2 trillion in revenue every year and will spend more than three times that this year. So, there has to be some serious spending reduction. The fiscal cliff looms with massive cuts in everything. On the other side of the cliff, estate taxes will be so high it will be hard to leave anything to the next generation.
The economy would be in wreckage. If we don’t deal with the Alternative Minimum Tax, it will pluck another $3,500 from the pockets of middle class families— again, if we drive over that fiscal cliff.
But we can fix it. It will start with extending the debt limit. We can pass estate tax reform, begin the process of overall tax reform, resolve our labor crisis with immigration reform and pass a farm bill with a crop insurance safety net. Without a means to manage risks, bankers won’t be letting farmers plant next spring. Increasing revenue? There has to be fair and broad tax reform.
My friend Tony Purcell of TSN Radio says nothing will change. Gridlock will continue. The fiscal cliff, however, turns that into an economic weapon of mass destruction. I like what rodeo guy Tom Stovall says, “Focus on what we have in common.” My fellow editor Ron Smith said, “Put the good of the nation above the desire for power.” Naive? I hope not. Ron also says we need to relearn the art of listening to one another. Amen.
There were good ideas on my Facebook page. Audits of defense, EPA, cost benefit analysis of regulations. Folks were adamant about developing fossil fuels, for the fuel and the jobs. Let me add that we should develop green energy in a responsible, market-driven way. We can’t afford to expand the welfare state, but we can’t expect to take it apart either. We should find a balance—a compromise between protecting the environment, health and worker safety and regulating jobs out of existence.
The popular vote is not the decider of presidential races, and it should not be. It was, however, close enough to warn us about how divided we are. It would be beyond foolish to deny the president a chance to govern. It would be equally ill advised for him to assume a mandate without working with Republicans.
I worked hard for my guy. Today, I am a member of the loyal opposition. Both sides are guilty of trying to enforce their own versions of ideological purity. We can’t afford that anymore. It’s time to work together. Really, long past time.