On the New Congress: Better They Just Keep Doing Nothing

Written by Ted Rall

Why can’t they just NOT get along? On the new Congress, Ted Rall hopes senators and representatives just keep doing nothing. Commentary.

aNewDomain — Bipartisanship! They always say it’s a good thing. That we need more of it. They say that Washington doesn’t get anything done because Democrats and Republicans don’t have enough in common to get along.

This week pundits are singing their usual song to the tune of President Obama’s State of the Union address, in which he argued that there is indeed still common ground between the two major parties (something he’s been saying since November), and so there are deals to be struck, bills to be negotiated, business to be done. Republicans say they agree.

God, let’s hope not.

There are many times when bipartisanship turns out to have been a terrible idea. Invading Iraq? Both parties were into it. Ditto with invading Afghanistan. Take a look at the compromises being floated as issues on which the GOP and the Democrats can potentially reach a bargain despite the “toxic tone in Washington” and “partisan rancor.”

Fast-track authority by the president to sign trade agreements is “one of the few areas of potential compromise between the White House and Republican lawmakers.”

Liberal Democrats are trying to scuttle such an agreement, and let’s hope they succeed.

The administration wants to double down on “success” of NAFTA with two new “free trade” agreements, a Trans-Pacific Partnership with 12 Asian nations and another deal with 28 in Europe. It’s hard to find credible projections of net job losses or increases for the ideologically fraught TPP, but we know what happened with previous free-trade deals. The Clinton administration originally predicted that NAFTA would generate 200,000 new American jobs within two years and 1 million new jobs within five, thanks to all of the products the United States would be exporting to Mexico.

In fact, not only to the United States not pick up any new jobs, it lost so many millions of them that it’s impossible for economists to keep track of them all. Not only that, NAFTA led to widespread environmental destruction, especially along the US-Mexico border, and severe downward pressure on US and Canadian wages.

To be charitable, it will hardly be the end of the world if TPP dies on the vine, or if Obama doesn’t get the chance to sign it before the end of his second term.


The president has previously proposed slashing the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent, so the political class thinks this is another wonderful way the Democrats and Republicans could skip down the halls of the Capitol together, holding hands.

However, corporate tax reform wants to solve a problem that doesn’t exist: high taxes paid by business. Corporations and their allies in the media repeatedly claim that American corporations pay the highest taxes in the world.

That’s crap.

They pay the highest marginal tax rate, but that’s totally theoretical, not what they are actually shelling out at the end of the year. Thanks to an array of fancy loopholes enacted into law by both parties over the years, the actual “effective rate” of American corporations is a tiny 12.6 percent. If anything, American corporations haven’t been paying their fair share in a long time.

Corporate toxic reform would be great, of the kind we need – higher taxes in order to relieve the burden on ordinary working Americans – isn’t something Obama, the Democrats or the Republicans are going to get behind.

If corporate tax reform collapses, take yourself out to dinner with the money you’ll save as a result.
Republicans are refusing to consider taking the United States off the short list of countries – it’s us and Papua New Guinea – that don’t require employers to provide paid sick leave. Ah, but Republicans are proposing what they call a compromise, and Democrats are signaling that their open to it: a bill that would allow workers to bank their overtime toward “paid” time off. Federal workers are already allowed to do this.

Workers would be better off holding out for something polls show Americans of both parties are overwhelmingly in favor of: real sick days, fully paid, the cost borne by the employer. Banking overtime toward sick days lets employers – who have seen soaring profits over the past few decades while incomes have stagnated and fallen behind – pass yet another expense from management to labor. Again, one hopes that this is a place that Democrats and Republicans learn not to get along.

We are repeatedly being told that we need bipartisan cooperation.

No we don’t.

What we need is a Congress that addresses our needs and desires.

For aNewDomain, I’m Ted Rall.

Cover image: Uscapitolindaylight” by Kevin McCoy. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.