Since President Barack Obama faces a Republican House next year, he must start building a working relationship with the GOP now if he wants to get things done. If he doesn't, he's toast in 2012.
The GOP can't override any vetoes without Democratic help. Effective governing requires principled compromise on both sides, not mandates of "it's going to be this way or no way" from either side.
Another message the election sent was people want results, not deadlock. Anybody, particularly inexperienced tea partiers, blocking accomplishments will be punished next time, and the GOP will have squandered the golden opportunity voters gave them. Here are some areas real progress is possible even in this lame-duck session:
The new 1099 requirement will produce far more costs, expanded bureaucracy and headaches than it will save. Repeal it!
Republicans can't repeal health care as many pledged, but can improve it significantly. Insurers can't do such things the bill requires as preventive screening and care, insuring pre-existing conditions, putting adult children on parents' policies, etc., without raising premiums. Some already have increased as much as 20 percent. It's not greedy insurers but basic arithmetic. Amend some of those.
Republicans could trade those reforms for the Democrats extending the "Bush tax cuts" for 2-3 years and setting more realistic estate tax exemptions than the $1 million now effective Jan. 1.
The requirement people must have insurance or pay a hefty annual tax is in court. Wait for that decision before wasting time.
Industries in most developed world countries, including American, own corporations in other countries. Currently, American corporations with branches in other developed countries are holding collectively about $1 trillion of cash profits looking for investment opportunities. Bringing it home putting it to creating jobs could cost taxpayers practically nothing, far better than taxpayers borrowing more money for stimulus.
They don't bring it home because of the 35 percent transfer tax we charge. Most developed countries tax such transfers 0 to 2 percent. Instead of here, they invest in other countries, creating jobs there. Pass a simple, quick, bipartisan bill reducing that specific tax to a competitive level for all the money that is reinvested immediately in job-creating ventures, a no-brainer.
Immigration reform is long overdue. Protecting borders comes first. It's naive to believe we can round up 14 million people, ship them home and make them stay. Fencing is expensive and mostly ineffective. We take too much popularly believed misinformation as fact.
Most illegal immigrants aren't gangsters. Most don't take jobs from Americans. They're doing jobs Americans won't do, even if drawing unemployment. They pay taxes. Hall County has many Hispanic business owners and several tax preparation firms. Taxpayers must be around to support them.
An effective guest worker program could legalize the presence of most without their automatically earning amnesty or citizenship. Give those documenting having worked here some number of years' (3? 5?) credit toward citizenship if not convicted of a felony. Give Hispanics in our military, especially wounded ones and their families, outright citizenship or at least credit with a number of years.
Make it a crime not to report immigrants they know are illegal. Proof of violation automatically revokes credits earned. Deporting them would increase motivation to report. Illegal immigrants know and harbor others. Stiffen penalties for people convicted of providing false documents. If they are illegal, disqualify them from guest worker status. Deport them.
After the legislation, give re-entered illegal immigrants a hefty prison sentence at hard labor, deport them and never again consider them for citizenship. Make reading, speaking and writing English mandatory.
Those are tough but fair measures. Both parties agree to share credit. If just these passed before adjournment, it would be a lot and a great lead-in to 2011.
Ted Oglesby is retired associate and opinion editor of The Times. You can contact him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA. His column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com.