BOSTON (CBS) — “Let others engage in cheap shots and low blows,” said Gov. Charlie Baker in a swipe at the Washington D.C. chaos during his inaugural address Thursday. “Let’s make our brand of politics positive and optimistic, instead of cruel and dark.”
But the lovefest between Baker and the Democratic legislature on Beacon Hill can’t obscure a troubling fact: the short and long-term future of Massachusetts depends heavily on what the “cruel and dark” D.C. culture does.
Baker spoke of the need to stabilize health care costs. But with federal reimbursements covering more than half of our MassHealth spending, any disruption – from legal challenges to Obamacare to budget cuts – could be devastating.
So far, our crucial federal transportation funding has avoided the wrath of Massachusetts-averse Republicans, and the presence of Springfield Congressman Richie Neal as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee is reassuring. But it will take every bit of leverage from Neal and his colleagues to keep us whole in the deficit-plagued budgets to come.
And as the carnage of the White House trade wars continues to pile up, it’s worth noting that international trade supports more than 20 percent of all jobs here, one of our fastest areas of job growth.
The modern-day Massachusetts economy was built in large part by powerful members of Congress – including Ted Kennedy in the Senate, and John McCormack, Tip O’Neill and Joe Moakley in the House – who were national figures but made sure to take care of home turf. Neal and Worcester’s Jim McGovern, now chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee thanks to Nancy Pelosi’s election as speaker, will help.
But with Sen. Elizabeth Warren now swimming in the presidential pool, Sen. Ed Markey’s insider skills will be more important than ever. And rising stars like Reps. Katherine Clark, Joe Kennedy, and Ayanna Pressley will need to balance their political ambitions with their constituents’ need for effective cross-aisle interaction.
The temptation for Massachusetts Democrats in Washington to respond in kind to the “cheap shots and low blows” of Trumpism will be strong. How they balance scratching that itch with delivering for us back home will play a crucial role in how we weather the coming recession.