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2010 Election Results

How It Affected the Economy

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The 2010 mid-term elections ushered in a Republican majority in the House (a gain of 60 seats), and a new House Majority Leader, John Boehner. Republicans won an additional 6 seats in the Senate, but not the majority. The Republicans said they want to reduce the deficit, keep the Bush tax cuts for everyone and reduce or even eliminate health care reform. Even though these changes don't take place until the new session starts in January, it can affect the lame-duck session in November and December. What changes are likely to happen, and how will they impact the U.S. economy?

1. Nov 30 2010 - Allow Extended Unemployment Benefits to Expire

(Photo: Chris Hondros / Getty Images)

The stimulus package extended unemployment benefits an additional 47 weeks. This extended benefit expires at the end of November, hurting 800,000 out of work Americans if the lame duck session of Congress doesn't pass a further extension. Why wouldn't they? In June, the Republicans allowed them to expire, arguing that the cost should be covered by budget cuts elsewhere. This despite research showing that every $1 spent on unemployment benefits stimulates $1.73 in economic growth.

The benefits were extended in July. They may pass this time if they're atttached to any must-pass spending bills or to an extension of the Bush tax cuts to win Republican support. (Source: Reuters, "Congress Starts Lame Duck Session," November 15, 2010)

2. Dec 3 2010 - Pass Emergency Budget

(Photo: Getty Images)
The Federal budget for FY 2011 wasn't approved by its October 30 deadline. This means that government agencies will run out of funds by December 3 unless an emergency funding bill is passed. Most likely emergency funding will only be extended until January 2011, so the new Congress can debate Federal spending. They will need to hurry, since President Obama will submit the FY 2012 budget to Congress on February 1, 2011.

3. Dec 31 2010 - Extend Bush Tax Cuts

(Photo: Getty Images)

The lame duck Congress will probably pass a one or two year extension of the Bush tax cuts by mid-December, when the IRS must issue 2011 tax withholding tables. When the rubber meets the road, no politician will want to be the one who potentially threatened the economic recovery with a renewed tax burden. This hard decision will be delayed for two years - just in time for the Presidential election. It will also add around $700 billion to the budget deficit, and put further downward pressure on the dollar.

4. Mar 2011 - Increase $14.3 Trillion Debt Ceiling

Experts predict that, at current rate of spending, the debt will reach the $14.3 trillion limit in March or April. Congress will probably increase that limit - as it has been doing no matter which party is in the majority.

5. Jun 2011 - Reduce the Budget Deficit

Republicans haven't offered any specific plans to reduce the largest budget areas: Military Spending ($895 billion) and Social Security ($730 billion). Instead, House Speaker John Boehner has suggested rolling back domestic spending, outside of Mandatory programs like Medicare and Social Security, to 2008 levels. Overall, this Pledge to American promises to cut $100 billion. It will cancel unspent Stimulus Funds ($220 billion) but this will be offset by extension of the Bush Tax Cuts, and additional tax cuts to businesses.

6. Jun 2011 - Increase Taxes Cuts for Small Businesses

The Pledge to America advocates a small businesses tax deduction equal to 20% of their business income. This is a great way to help stimulate jobs, since small businesses create 65% of all new jobs. This would be a welcome addition to the Small Business Stimulus bill passed in 2010, which included $12 billion in tax credits for equipment purchases, an increase to SBA loan guarantees from $2 million to $5 million, and a $30 billion loan program for community banks.

7. Try, But Fail, in Disabling Health Care Reform

This probably won't happen, since the President will veto any attempts from the House. A huge fight over health care reform will just cloud the more important economic decisions that must be made. The Pledge to American promises to replace the Health Care Reform Act with bills that would:
  • Enact medical liability reform.
  • Grant consumers the freedom to purchase coverage across state lines.
  • Expand Health Savings Accounts.
  • Strengthen the doctor-patient relationship.
  • Ensure access for those with pre-existing conditions. (Is already in the Health Care Reform Act).
  • Permanently prohibit federal funding of abortions.

8. Opportunity to Solve Real Economic Problems

The mid-term elections could create an atmosphere of negotiation, not squabbling. Most Americans are sick of the partisan finger-pointing and are looking for true leadership from their elected officials - regardless of party affiliation. The economy is not out of the woods yet, and requires some tough decisions on fiscal policy. Let's hope that this is the real legacy of the 2010 midterm elections.
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