Feverish last-ditch efforts involving Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kt.) now attempt to preserve middle class tax cuts and stop $600 billion in mandatory government spending cuts. With fiscal cliff negotiations stuck in the House because of GOP anti-tax fanatics, the U.S. Senate performed its appropriate role as the government’s rational voice. Without intervening before Jan. 1, 2013, 98% of U.S. taxpayers would see 5%-10% less money in the their paychecks. “Every American’s paycheck will get a lot smaller,” said President Barack Obama, exasperated by today’s divided government yet optimistic that something can be done before the Dec. 31, 2012 deadline. “Congress can prevent it from happening, if they act now,” signaling that the U.S. Senate can bypass a dysfunctional House for the good of the country.
Despite progress in the U.S. economy, House Republicans continue to insist on massive spending cuts, especially in popular government entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security. When Barack trounced GOP nominee Mitt Romney Nov. 6, he thought he had a mandate to implement his fix to the U.S. economy. Romney and his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (W-Wis.) argued that the only way to create more private sector jobs was to slash government spending. Voters disagreed. Yet a band of anti-tax zealots in the House refused to raise taxes on the rich creating the current impasse. Obama’s shown more flexibility with his limits, pushing the upper income bracket from $250,000 to $400,000. Whatever the specifics, if Barack gets no concessions he still needs to let Bush-era tax cuts continue for the time being because of the anemic U.S. economy.
If Republicans really want to reduce deficits, the best path involves stimulating the consumer economy, accounting for about two-thirds of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. With Third Quarter GDP coming in at 3.1%, it’s only a matter of time before today’s $1.1 trillion deficit shrinks down on its own. All the talk of slashing government spending is unnecessary if the economy continues to add jobs, adding precious tax dollars to the U.S. Treasury. “We can still avoid going over the fiscal cliff if the president and the Democratic-controlled Senate step forward this week and work with Republicans to solve this problem and solve it now,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Now that the fix comes from the Senate, there’s more confidence that something can get done before it’s too late. Mired in anti-tax ideology driven by GOP Party Boss Grover Norquist, the House no longer serves the people.
House anti-tax zealots hark back to the Reagan Revolution, when former President Ronald Reagan cut taxes and helped the U.S. economy recover from former President Jimmy Carter’s “stagflation.” While there’s nothing wrong, as Reagan liked to say, of “letting the people keep more of their own money and spend it the way the want to,” than giving it to the government, there comes a time when tax revenues are needed. Tea Party-types in the House, like House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan, believe government programs drag down the economy. Whether that’s true or not, the government must meet its retirement and health care obligations to its citizens. GOP preferences to slash entitlements were rejected Nov. 6. Still battling a lost election the GOP can’t accept that a plurality of Democrats, Republicans and independents voted for Obama’s economic program.
White House officials won’t convince House or Senate Republicans anytime soon. Cooler heads, led by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), McConnell and Reid should find consensus on continuing Bush-era tax cuts. No one believes ideological battles will be solved anytime soon. What Obama, House and Senate leadership must work on in the last three days is keeping the economy alive for 2013. Raising taxes and slashing spending is not the way to stimulate the economy. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has warned both parties that an unresolved fiscal cliff hurts the economy. “Outside of Washington nobody understands how it is that this seems to be a repeat pattern, over and over again,” said Obama, referring to the endless partisan squabbling. Agreeing in the Senate on one thing is all that’s important: Preserving Bush-era tax cuts.
Pressing for a stopgap measure in the Senate, the president hopes to bypass the House that’s currently overrun by Tea Party fanatics. Putting Grover Norquist before the U.S. Constitution, House GOP members showed their preference for partisan politics over the good of the country. Old arguments about tax cuts rescuing the U.S. economy have been disproved long ago. Fighting with religious fervor for their anti-tax beliefs has nothing to do with fixing the sluggish U.S. economy. Unable to win at the ballot box, House Republicans have held 98% of taxpayers hostage to an obsolete anti-tax ideology. Letting the Senate fashion legislation to protect middle class taxpayers, Obama hopes to perform an end-run around the House. Contacting McConnell Wednesday night was the best call Barack’s made in a long time. Reaching across the aisle proved that some members of the opposition are ready to help.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.