Publisher’s ink: Fiscal cliff-hanger looms as parties posture

By From page A5 | November 28, 2012

Richard Esposito

Just when you thought it was safe to resume normal life after the election, we’re now facing what could be a crisis of epic proportion. The countdown to the nation’s “fiscal cliff” is winding down. The “fiscal cliff” is what we’ll fall over if the Bush tax cuts don’t get extended and automatic spending cuts begin in accordance with the Budget Control Act of 2011. Everything from reductions in national defense and non-defense discretionary programs could be affected.

It’s what most American family households have been dealing with for several years, which might explain why the posturing between Republicans and Democrats over revenue and expenses is being met with skepticism.

To better understand our dire situation let’s venture over to the edge of the cliff together. The vast abyss below is the culmination of budget red ink brought on by years of reckless spending by both political parties.

Why are we not surprised hearing Republicans refuse to budge on their “no tax increases for anyone” pledge or Democrats refusing to address entitlement reform and discretionary spending? We’ve heard it ad nauseam.

Republicans need to accept that class warfare is over and the class war itself was lost. Yes, it’s over. Rich folks and those claiming they built their businesses lost the battle to the 47 percent Mitt Romney referred to wanting the “free” stuff.

With President Obama’s reelection and another four years in office there’s no longer any need to fret over any ensuing fiscal crisis. We’ve done extremely well under his astute leadership. Unemployment has dropped to 7.9 percent from 8.3 percxent when he first entered office, our national debt remains at a mere $16 trillion and gasoline prices fell another 7 cents last week. Life is good.

In the immortal words of Vice President Joe Biden, “We inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression and we brought it back from the brink of a fiscal catastrophe.”

Not one to agree with the president’s Robin Hood ideology of robbing the rich to pay the poor (or in this case to help reduce the budget deficit) perhaps its time we all rethink this. President Obama has repeatedly declared in speech after speech that he doesn’t want to levy higher taxes onto the middle class. It’s those wealthy types earning $250,000 and more he’s targeting.

The Republican argument that increasing taxes on job producers will negatively impact the economy has lost out to a majority of people who don’t buy that rationale and an electorate that doesn’t care.

Controlling the House of Representatives two years from now will be difficult if Republicans are seen as obstructionists in providing the parachute the country needs as it free falls off the cliff. Raise taxes on higher earners and let’s see what happens.

And likewise, if Democrats refuse to agree to spending cuts and the budget deficit continues to balloon out of control then they’ll need to answer to that. They won the election – they own the economy.

Relying solely on sequestration Jan. 2, 2013, to force reductions in spending and lost jobs, will likely hurt reelection for Democrats serving in defense industry-laden districts too.

A few weeks earlier President Obama scoffed at the notion of cutting multi-million dollar subsidies to Public Broadcasting Service for programming like Sesame Street’s Big Bird. If you can’t get Big Bird’s beak out of the public trough, then what cuts does the president propose?

In other words, if the revenue question is answered by Republicans how will Democrats respond to the expense question?

In 2008 then-candidate Barack Obama declared he would instruct Joe Biden to use a scalpel on the budget to “cut out any waste and unnecessary government spending” as he told us. It didn’t happen then and it’s unlikely it will this time around — at least not by Thanksgiving Day. So if Big Bird is spared the ax again, then what’s to become of the turkeys in Congress if or when the outcome of this cliff-hanger becomes a reality?

Richard Esposito is publisher of Village Life and the Mountain Democrat.

Richard Esposito


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