When did bipartisanship become a crime?

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Judging by the rhetoric of the silly (political) season, the recently enacted tax bill shepherded by House Speaker Paul Ryan and signed into law by President Obama is yet another reason why Washington is out of touch. I beg to differ.

For a change, elected officials in the nation’s capital have acted on behalf of small businesses, the forgotten stepchild of the American economy. Rather than doing the bidding of big business and government, Congressional lawmakers actually provide some much-needed tax relief to smaller employers. In the process, they have set the stage for stronger growth in 2016.

Yet because both sides of the aisle got something and Republicans, in particular, did not get everything, would-be presidents canvassing Iowa and New Hampshire have used the bill as a political piñata. To them I say grow up. This is what divided government looks like, and this is what it looks like in Washington, Madison, and any other seat of government when voters don’t trust either party enough to give them total control.

“For a change, elected officials in the nation’s capital have acted on behalf of small businesses.”

With recent Republican legislative domination, that situation does not exist in Madison; when it did, budget conferees got together and produced wins for both parties. Somehow the state of Wisconsin survived the ordeal of people reaching across the aisle to actually get something accomplished.

My biggest lament about Washington of late is that nothing significant has been accomplished. With Republicans in control of Congress and a Democrat in the White House, that requires compromise — not the endless bickering that produces gridlock. Yes, I’d prefer more fiscal discipline and some debt reduction, but we also need stronger economic growth to ward off a downturn that would add to both. The recent tax bill should stimulate more growth and hiring and, yes, the higher tax collections that a stronger economy inevitably produces.

I understand why a global slowdown has people worried about another recession, but we might have less reason to be pessimistic about our prospects for 2016. The tenor of the presidential campaign should be centered on how to build on what has been a tepid yet consistent recovery, improve wage growth through stronger business confidence, and pass smart legislation that spackles cracks like underwhelming capital investment.

Through more generous expensing and bonus depreciation, the latest Congressional legislation seeks to do just that. So cheer up — a happier New Year could be well underway.

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