Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Shredding the Tea Leaves

Everyone's a political expert these days, parsing the outcome of the midterms and reading the tea leaves for the future.

Here's my inexpert reading.

Nationally, it was a vote on style versus substance. Substance lost. Voters rejected President Trump's disastrous style -- self-centered, arrogant, intemperate -- and punished Republicans in many House and a few Senate races. Never mind that the U.S. economy is soaring, investment is at an all-time high, unemployment is near its historic low, the stock market is delivering gains to over half of all Americans, worker satisfaction and consumer confidence are through the roof. Substance got lost in Trumps' bombastic verbiage.

It was more of the same at the state level, with eight governorships flipping to the Democrats and new taxes taking hold across the country -- a definite move to the left. Marijuana was approved in three more states, and California locked in debilitating green-energy mandates.

You don't have to look farther than Florida to see the trends. Democrat gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum advocated universal health care, a boost in the corporate tax rate, a near-doubling of the minimum wage, legalized marijuana, abolishment of ICE and establishment of Florida as a sanctuary state. And going into the recount, Gillum is behind by a minuscule 0.4%.

What does all of this pretend for the future?

At the national level, we will see hatred and gridlock. Trump will feed the frenzy with at least one stupid remark a day. Unable to coax bipartisanship, he will govern by executive order (Obama showed the world how to do that), hoping the courts, increasingly conservative, will uphold at least some of his dictates. The Democrats will stymie every move toward legislation, instead wasting political capital by investigating Trump every which way -- past, present and imagined. Chances to deal with infrastructure and immigration will be lost.

In Tallahassee things will be mirror-image bad. With all three branches likely in conservative hands, pending the outcome of the recount, education, the environment (read blue-green algae and red tide)  and mental health will continue to get short shrift. Groundwork will be laid for recreational pot, which will be overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2020. On the plus side, taxes will be held in check, growth will continue and tourists will merrily cough their way along our polluted beaches.

Locally, two more taxes will be enacted, joining the "temporary" sales tax just passed. Stormwater fees will be forced on taxpayers, and Conservation Collier will get funding from a property tax increase. Then, not too far down the road, look for millage hikes for education and fire-district spending. All of that will be offset by few, if any, national or regional tournaments choosing our new sports complex.

Look, I admit it. I'm a sore loser and frustrated Republican. Things could be much worse. Hillary could win in 2020, the stock market could crash, North Korea could nuke Seattle and Elizabeth Warren could find out she was pure Cherokee. We might look back on 2018 as the good old days.

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