Divided government means that neither Democrats nor Republicans will be able to pass legislation along strictly partisan lines. It means that bipartisan compromise is the only way to avoid further gridlock.
In the past, divided government has yielded some historic results. It produced landmark tax reform in 1986 and a sweeping overhaul of our welfare system 10 years later.
Of course, we’ve had divided government since January 2011, and thus far it has produced legislative stalemates and bitter recriminations. Why should we expect things to be any different this time around?
Quite simply, I believe there is now a bipartisan recognition that our current fiscal path is unsustainable. We cannot keep running trillion-dollar deficits. We cannot keep postponing structural changes to our largest entitlement programs. And unless we are happy with a tax code that wastes economic resources, stifles job creation and promotes crony capitalism, we cannot keep delaying genuine tax reform.
We don’t have to speculate about what bipartisan tax reform might look like.
In 2010, two separate bipartisan commissions recommended lowering the rates and broadening the base, which is exactly what Congress did in 1986.
Yet before we can implement 1986-style tax reform, we need to prevent the largest tax increase in American history, which is scheduled to take effect on New Year’s Day and could easily trigger a new recession.
All that Republicans are asking is to maintain the current rates until we adopt real bipartisan tax reform. Remember: These are the same tax rates that President Barack Obama signed into law two years ago.
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