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2011 predictions: Chest thumping but no action on taxes, spending, deficit

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Karen Bleier / AFP / Getty Images / Newscom / File

(Read caption) A Western Lowland Gorilla thumps its chest at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington on Aug. 18, 2009. In its 2011 predictions, nonpartisan think tank TaxVox argues that this year will see plenty more posturing and chest thumping from Washington – from Congress and the Administration, not just the National Zoo – but little substantive action.

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The battle lines, as they say, have been drawn. In his radio address last Saturday, President Obama said his goal for 2011 is to “do everything I can to make sure our economy is growing, creating jobs and strengthening our middle class.” Republicans may want to grow the economy as well, but in the party’s first 2011 radio address, newly-elected GOP senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) said the GOP’s prime focus is elsewhere: “Job one,” she said, “is to stop wasteful Washington spending."

The rhetoric reflects the very different messages each party took from the November elections. Obama’s lesson: Nervous about their jobs and overall financial security, furious voters punished incumbents for not jumpstarting the slumping economy. The GOP, by contrast, learned it could build an energized, highly motivated base by pounding away at big government without making any specific promises.

The challenge for Obama is obvious. If he can’t deliver on his pledge to revive the economy, his political career is dead man walking. The GOP, by contrast, must somehow satisfy the low-tax, small government demands of its activist base without alienating independent voters. Those independents, it seems to me, are far more inclined to favor those politicians who give them job security over those who fire the most GS 12s from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Add divided government to the mix and 2011 is likely to feel a bit like the preliminaries of a sumo match. Much grimacing and stamping of feet. A lot of ritual throwing of rice. But no real action. And no results. Here’s what’s likely to happen in the new year:

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