Our View: Down to the wire
Posted: December 31, 2012
As we wrote these words at high noon Sunday, with the rays of a brilliant sun cascading through the windows of The Star, the possibility of agreement in the “fiscal cliff” talks seemed bright as well.
But “bright” is, of course, a relative term. In our view, the return of the sun after days of off-again/on-again inclement weather is no sure-fire metaphor for what’s happening in Official Washington. Yes, a deal may be in the works, but what might it offer other than a temporary reprieve from a gadarene rush over the fiscal precipice? That’s the real question.
As best we could tell at high noon from reading the latest dispatches — the Washington Examiner’s Byron York providing the keenest insight — a group of accommodationist Republicans was working with Democrats at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue on a deal that would raise taxes on someAmericans while making the income tax rates on everyone else permanent. Or as permanent as “permanent” can be in Washington. Uncertain at this writing was precisely what the threshold would be for such a tax increase — whether $400,000 in yearly income or perhaps a figure a bit higher.
The ever-present rub in all this? That Republicans, in their eagerness not to be blamed for a “cliff plunge,” will extract little or no concessions on spending from their foes. Instead, they’ll renew that fight when the debt ceiling is once again reached, which could happen as soon as early February.
“(T)he bottom line,” said Mr. York, “is that the fiscal cliff fight will not end happily for Republicans. They will have given in on what was an article of faith — that taxes should not be raised on anybody, poor or rich — in return for essentially nothing.”
How, pray tell, does this benefit the nation, and its economy, in the long run? Especially when you consider that ours is not so much — if at all — a revenue problem as it is a spending problem?
And, to think, for years Democrats derided the so-called “Bush tax cuts” as a surplus-buster. That’s all we heard, how this tax policy squandered the Clinton surplus. Now they’re fighting to preserve these very tax rates for all but a few Americans — a political tactic that merely exposes those tax hikes on “the rich” for what they truly are, a punitive strike against success leveled by this administration.
And all the while our overall fiscal condition worsens. Can’t get your minds around those trillions, with their many zeroes? Well, remove the zeroes and examine this condition in terms of a family budget.
Say this family takes in $21,700 yearly in income, but spends $38,200. That means its new credit-card debt for just that one year amounts to $16,500, which pushes its outstanding credit-card balance to somewhere near $170,000. The family, duly alarmed but not too much, institutes some spending reductions, but only to the tune of $38.50.
How’s that for perspective? Return those zeroes to their proper place, and that’s the situation facing America. Makes you wonder where the real “fiscal cliff” is, doesn’t it?