“If I go, there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double.” — Mick Jones
There were tons of fascinating topics I got to teach when I was a social studies teacher. There are days where I miss it, but on most days I’m happy I switched over to English. One of the more interesting topics in Economics is the concept of opportunity costs. It is always the infinite possibilities that boggles the mind.
There is always positive momentum every time a major piece of legislation passes. It takes so long to get those things done. You have to corral your own caucus and make sure everyone gets what they need out of it. Then, you have to overcome the filibuster on the other side. Then, both chambers have to hammer out a compromise that both can then reasonably pass. It especially gets tough when Congress and the president come from different parties. I think you get the idea.
Congress passes legislation all the time. We often refer to Congress as a “do nothing” Congress and somehow assume they can only do one thing at a time. I think deep down we know this isn’t true, but when it comes to major issues this is certainly true. Now, the Democrats in Congress and the Justice Department have a choice they have to make.
How do they use this momentum? The positive feelings from passing a major piece of legislation like the infrastructure bill probably buys you only so much. You can push one thing forward and time is running out. The closer we get to the 2022 midterm elections the less that’s going to get done. We probably have time for them to do one other great thing.
As Yogi Berra once said, “when you reach a fork in the road. Take it.” Naturally, many of you are wondering what our choices are. We can certainly add to the economic impact of the infrastructure bill with items that were left out. Democrats initially wanted a much bigger package. They could damn the torpedoes and go for that.
The Democrats could take the momentum and go after the voting rights bill. I think this is the legislative direction most people want to go. If such a bill passed it would nullify the voter suppression bills passed in individual states and would add protections that could safeguard our democracy moving forward.
The last possibility involves the Justice Department. Congress has subpoenaed numerous officials from the Trump administration to answer for the big lie and the January 6th insurrection. How much did they plan? How much did they cause with their rhetoric? Can we prove they helped plan that event and that they knew the big lie was obviously false?
If they appear the simple answer would appear to be yes on all counts. We get two divergent questions from this point forward. The first question is how hard we pursue them to compel them to appear? The current strategy appears to be for them to just skip the appearances and let Congress and the Justice Department pursue them. If you play their game you could end up spending that entire momentum on getting them to admit what most rational people already know.
The second question is what to do once they admit what we already know. Do you throw them in jail? Do you simply use the material in campaigns moving forward? Do we make a huge effort to educate the public? All of this involves using pretty much all of that momentum we described earlier.
The problem with opportunity costs is that you only get the one opportunity. Furthermore, if you wait too long before making a decision you don’t get anything out of it. Democrats must choose and they must choose quickly. Do they want more economic relief, environmental protections, and progress towards the future? Do they want to safeguard our democracy? Do they want to punish those that attempted to poison the waters of democracy and discourage anyone from ever doing that again? It’s a hard question to answer.
One of the ways you win elections is by making the lives of your voters better. If you can point to a tangible thing you did for people they are more likely to vote for you. If you continue to say, “we would have done something, but the other side wouldn’t let us” you end up watching the next cycle from the losing end. However, we have noticed the recent trend of zombie politics. You defeat people and thoroughly expose them for what they are, but they somehow come back from the dead. That’s because we inevitably lay our foot off the gas and allow them to whimper away. They lick their wounds and come back as if nothing ever happened.
The upshot is that as long as the Democrats make a choice they will create some positive synergy for the next election cycle. Some choices are better than others, but the key is to get off the pot and make one. The alternative is paralysis by analysis. Factions bicker about what to do and you look up and it’s November 2022. The unfortunate part of opportunity costs is that you have to choose something. The clock is ticking.