By tradition, the new year represents a fresh start, a transition glittering with heightened expectations. Gone is the ragtag calendar of the old year with a mixed record smudged across its 365 pages. As always, there were some days of bright achievements, some days of disappointment or failure and many days of little special note. On Jan. 1 all that is put aside. Now there is a clean slate with the implied promise that the American people and their government can fashion the coming year to their own desires and aspirations.
People resolve themselves to do better, to adopt more worthy goals or to tidy up unfinished business, just as Abraham Lincoln highly resolved at Gettysburg that the embattled Union would experience a new birth of freedom.
Unfortunately, the infant year 1986 comes onto the scene already blemished with unfinished business for Congress and the President and, thus, the American people. The major achievements of 1985 consisted of beginnings rather than endings.
The President made a beginning toward better understanding with the Soviet Union at Geneva. The process will continue with the second summit meeting in Washington in June.
Congress made a beginning with House passage of a tax-reform bill. The goal of fairness and equity faces an uncertain resolution in the Senate.
And Congress and the President pretended to make a beginning toward deficit reduction with passage of the Gramm-Rudman plan, but in reality wound up with a fake that promises more chaos than achievement.
Gramm-Rudman forces Washington to launch the year on a negative note, groping for the least-unpleasant manner in which to cut domestic spending programs that already have been pared--in many cases--to the marrow. The President's budget, one of Washington's major agenda-setting vehicles, will be bereft of compassion or inspiration for people as it pursues the goal of dismantling the non-military federal establishment. And in his State of the Union address the President is expected to champion anew a tax-reform plan that would distribute more benefits to the wealthy and the comfortable in America.
Adding to the likely rancor and political division is the fact that 1986 is an election year for 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 34 in the Senate. The first Tuesday in November becomes an automatic benchmark against which many House and Senate roll-call votes will be measured with care.
Thus, much of 1986's calendar is already penciled in with deadlines and due dates. As the new year starts, it is reasonable to wonder if there will be time and energy--and caring--left to consider the rest of America's unfinished agenda.
Will there be resolves to find shelter for the homeless and to do something about the causes of homelessness? Will the chilling indifference toward civil liberties be reversed? Will health care for the poor and elderly be protected? Will air travel be made safer? Will needed sewage plants be built? Will the quality of drinking water be assured? Will America's endangered species be nurtured? Will the air be made more breathable? Will there be hope for the chronically unemployed? Will young families be able to afford their own homes?
Indeed, will the Constitution of the United States be defended and protected in the spirit of achieving a more perfect Union of all the people, or interpreted in a narrow and grudging way?
The answers should be clear. Now, therefore, let us resolve . . . .