Our View: Rotten sausage

Posted: January 3, 2013

In assessing Official Washington’s latest walk on the wildly distressing side — to the edge of the “fiscal cliff,” but not beyond — one is obliged, unfortunately, to deal with, well, the deal. And the politics of it all.

If there’s any truth to the old saw about legislating being akin to sausage-making, what transpired over the last 72 hours or so offered proof positive of the resemblance. The process was not for the squeamish — or for Americans who expect more of their government.

Frankly, it was a mess — arrant brinksmanship giving way to the unmistakable appearance of a government almost blithely lurching from one crisis to another, resolving nothing — and so, too, not surprisingly, was its ultimate product. But then, what can one expect when politicians, as George Will observes in the column at right, bathe in the “politically rational” but “fiscally perverse”? Have they lost sight of the fact that it’s the fisc that really counts? Apparently.

Anyway, President Obama got what he most ardently desired — i.e., Republicans striking the tent on an article of faith, their long-held resolve not to raise taxes, especially in delicate economic climes. Even as certain opinionators and bloviators — alleged anti-tax guru Grover Norquist foremost among them — seek solace in the notion that tax rates were made “permanent” for more than 98 percent of the population, it’s hard to imagine a more ignominious defeat for the GOP.

Enough Republicans caved — on taxes, on spending — thus assuring this indisputable fact: They got nothing from these negotiations but an image further tarnished.

How total was their defeat? The legislation that escaped Congress on Tuesday not only failed to stanch the deluge of red ink by even a trickle, but actually turned the spigot even more — to the tune of $300 billion, to be spent on such worthy causes as algae, Hollywood productions, and NASCAR racing. That’s insult added to injury.

Sequestration? That can was kicked two months into the future, presumably so the GOP can fight that battle another day, at debt-ceiling crunch time. But it’s hard to fight when your resolve is broken, your forces have been scattered to the winds, and your credibility is shot. Meanwhile, Mr. Obama gets his victory on taxing “the rich,” the proceeds from which will make nary a dent in reducing the ever-ballooning deficit.

That’s pretty rotten legislative sausage, we must say, particularly for a nation so broke it can’t even afford hot dogs.