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Changing government easier said than done

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  • Washington is not an arena that cottons well to change — particularly quick, decisive change. Voters, who’ve made it clear they’re fed up to the gills with everything “establishment,” want to wake up next morning and find their world magically transformed: a vigorous economy, a thriving housing market, jobs galore, and oh yes, lower taxes. Ain’t gonna happen.

Now that election furor has ebbed and the jubilant winners are champing to claim their (enormously expensive) seats in Congress, it is, to borrow the old aphorism, time to fish or cut bait.

Republican Rand Paul, who won his Kentucky senate race with Tea Party backing, said in his victory statement he would go to Washington with a message that “we’ve come to take our country back.”

Marco Rubio, winner of a hotly-contested senate race in Florida, also with Tea Party support, said “We will offer a clear and genuine alternative.”

Yes, well, lots of luck with that.

Flag, motherhood, and apple pie sound bites aside, Washington is not an arena that cottons well to change — particularly quick, decisive change. Voters, who’ve made it clear they’re fed up to the gills with everything “establishment,” want to wake up next morning and find their world magically transformed: a vigorous economy, a thriving housing market, jobs galore, and oh yes, lower taxes.

Ain’t gonna happen. Turning Washington around is like reversing the course of an ocean liner; it takes some mighty heaving on the rudder.

Cutting spending, reducing debt, and downsizing government make good fodder for campaign oratory, but when it comes down to the actual process, for the honorables it’s a NIMBY (not in my back yard) slugfest: “Yes, I’m all for cutting spending — just as long as we don’t do it in my district.”

This crop of congressional newbies will learn, as have countless others through the decades, that it’s a lot easier to prattle on about all the great things one will do if one gains office than it is to actually do them.

The specifics of spending cuts are always far harder than generalities. And in recent years, one of those specifics has increasingly been agriculture, which has had a great big bullseye painted squarely on it in any budget cutting exercise (this despite agriculture’s almost unwavering support of all things Republican).

It will be interesting to see, in the next two years before another election cycle comes ‘round, just how much will be accomplished. Despite their gains in the House, Republicans must deal with a Democrat majority Senate and a Democrat president with veto power. Will they now make a genuine effort toward bipartisanship to birth solid programs that can make headway in resolving the critical issues facing this country? Or just continue as Party of No?

“We have buried our children under a mountain of debt,” House speaker-in-waiting John Boehner said in his election night victory speech. One can but wonder if “we” includes his participation in the unprecedented spending spree of the eight Bush years?

Can the GOP elephant change its spots? We’ll see.

One thing came through pretty clear in this election, though: The big knives are sharpened for Obama, and absent miraculous accomplishments the next two years, he appears fated to join the roster of one-term presidents.

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