President Obama and Congress this week didn’t succeed in steering this country away from the fiscal cliff. At best, they backed the bus away from it slightly, but the cliff is clearly down the road.
Without their action, it’s true that a half billion dollars would have been jerked out of this nation’s economy, causing sticker shock to tens of millions of working Americans when they opened their next paycheck. Taking that much out of the economy in a combination of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts, economists warned us, would have plunged the country into a second recession during Obama’s term.
But no one acted heroically, even though they stayed up past their bedtime, working into the wee hours of 2013; the tough decisions, which still must be made, have been left for another day — and, we worry, for politicians not yet elected who are willing to confront this growing problem that is indeed real.
Obama and fellow Democrats refused to look at spending cuts that will eventually be necessary to address this nation’s $16.4 trillion debt. If you feel like being depressed, go to this link — http://www.usdebtclock.org/#. And remember, a trillion seconds is more than 38,000 years, so the hole that we have dug ourselves is beyond comprehensive.
Republicans elected to put a scare in middle class America while trying to shield the richest among us — millionaires and billionaires — from tax cuts. Of course they can afford to pay more, but by making them pay more, this country risks driving investment out of the country, a shortsighted approach. But Republicans failed to make this clear, and allowed themselves again to be labeled the party of the rich.
It makes little difference that Republicans are correct on this matter: No serious assault on the deficit can be launched without deep and painful spending cuts, especially to Medicare. Obama and fellow Democrats could confiscate — not just raise taxes on — all the property of this country’s millionaires, and no more than a dent would be knocked into the deficit.
In the end, the biggest winner was former President George W. Bush, whose tax cuts were extended by Democrats, many of whom years ago opposed them, saying they would hurt the economy. In doing so, the Democrats have acknowledged that tax cuts help an economy by leaving money in the private sector, which knows best how to use it.
All in all, it was a sorry spectacle, but not unlike what we have come to expect. This nation, just like Robeson County, needs real leadership, politicians willing to act in their constituents’ best interest — even it that doesn’t align perfectly with being re-elected.