NOW THAT WE’VE had a month to digest the 2018 midterm elections, is it too much to ask our elected officials to focus their energies on the betterment of our state and country, not on their respective political parties. Answer? Probably.

As concerned Americans, we deserve and we should expect that those leaders pledge to work together for the benefit of our whole country, not just their partisan interests. Talk is cheap, we need to judge them on their actions.

Newly-energized Democrats have already indicated they want to reverse the tax cuts for high-income households as soon as possible. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-New Jersey), who will become the chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said he’d like to raise the gasoline tax, which hasn’t changed since 1993.

Both sides have said they want a massive infrastructure spending program to improve the nation’s roads, bridges, water systems, airports and upgrade energy grids. The Democrats are calling their plan a “Better Deal” for America and it would cost $1 trillion over 10 years.

They say it would create 16 million jobs, and will be paid for by raising corporate taxes and raising the top individual tax rates. Plus they would have to borrow additional money, adding to the national debt, which is currently approaching $22 trillion.

The Republican Party has suggested an even bigger infrastructure plan. Their $1.5 trillion program would be financed with public and private funds. Either plan calls for $140 billion for roads and bridges, $115 billion for water and sewer infrastructure, and $50 billion to rebuild schools.

If those $1 trillion plans aren’t enough, the 2020 presidential election cycle will likely have taxpayers being sold plans for expanded government health care, free college and additional funding for entitlement programs. There’s no way around higher taxes and annual federal budget deficits exceeding $1 trillion.

We are constantly told that the rich keep getting richer, while lower-income and middle-income households are left behind. That’s why liberals and progressives advocate higher taxes on the wealthy so they can redistribute the wealth.

Keep in mind those trillion-dollar infrastructure spending plans will see 80% to 90% of the money ending up in the pockets of the wealthiest 15% of Americans. It’s just a fact. Even if 50% of the trillion dollars starts in the pockets of the middle-class work force, it will quickly trickle up to that top 15%.

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SO WHO won the 2018 midterm elections? Considering the venom Democrats had for President Donald Trump and the Republican Party, the results might be considered a split-decision. Yes, the Democrats regained the majority in the House, but it wasn’t quite the landslide many expected. Republicans kept the majority in the Senate.

Democrats picked up about 40 House seats, seven governors races and more than 330 state legislative seats, but that’s about normal for a midterm. Maybe more important, Democrats regained leverage in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, which will be vital in the 2020 general election.

Sounds bad for Republicans, but the average loss for the president’s party in midterms is about 30 House seats. For example, in 2010, President Barack Obama lost 63 House seats. This year wasn’t quite the “blue wave” Democrats had hoped for considering the hatred for Trump, the most polarizing president in modern history.

Democrats were successful in rallying their base: minority groups, suburban women and union members. They spent tons of money to get out the vote including college students and millennials. They used high-profile celebrities to support candidates with moderate success.

Now, the question is how will Democrats use their new power in Congress? Will they legislate or investigate? Will they declare war on the opposition or will they make every attempt to work across the aisle and show voters they have fresh ideas and are extending a hand for unity and civility?

The Democrats have invested a lot of political capital in support of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian-collusion probe which a majority of Americans say is clearly politically motivated.

What will they do if the Mueller investigation wraps up and it says there was no collusion and does not justify the further waste of time or money? Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will likely call the probe tainted and ask for an investigation of the investigation.

There are about 104 new faces in Congress including many more women. There are now about 123 women in Congress, 104 Democrats and only 19 Republicans. Let’s hope these new faces join Congress with open minds and a commitment to find bipartisan agreement.

The new blood should band together and form a coalition of moderates and not be bullied by the old established leaders who seem to revel in divisive politics, retribution and gridlock. Can they inject a little civility? It’s time for a new beginning.

It also would help to end the dysfunction if a bipartisan congressional panel would rewrite or re-establish a plan for simplifying the way government operates.

Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin) recently said “The problem is a defective process under the current rules, even idealistic members discover they have to ‘play the game.’ ”

In Washington politics, Congress and the White House, there are thousands of rules and procedures, but for every cardinal rule, there are two or three rules for circumventing the hard and fast rules. There is always a back door or trapdoor to delay or obstruct the flow of legislative business.