More political theater...Posted Thursday, January 3, 2013, at 9:17 AM
The infamous "fiscal cliff" was barely avoided, but...
1) Your taxes will still be going up. The payroll tax, which pays for Social Security, will go from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent (where it had been before the Bush tax cuts and which resulted in significant borrowing to pay for Social Security).
2) Congress couldn't get its act together in time to actually meet the deadline, making restoration of the remaining Bush tax cuts retroactive to Jan. 1. That's good news, unless you make over $450,000 a year, in which case the Bush tax cuts go away (pushing the highest tax brackets up about 3 percent higher than they have been).
Some of the reason for "missing" the deadline was pure political theater of the worst kind.
Several GOP House members, mainly Tea Party clowns blindly stuck on ideological purity rather than practical politics, insisted they wouldn't vote for anything involving a tax increase. They were willing to let everyone see a tax increase rather than say yes to an increase only on the upper 1 percent of the wealthy in this country. So, to get out of the corner they'd painted themselves into, they let all the taxes go up, then "voted to reduce taxes," thereby letting the saner GOP leadership come through on its end of the compromise they'd reached at the last minute with the Democrats.
3) The legislation passed the other night still didn't address the significant issues of reducing spending, which is harder than lowering taxes. Nobody, for example, wants to see a military base closed in their state (but if you gave DoD free rein, you could bet a bunch would disappear, along with some weapons systems Congress foisted on them to keep jobs in individual congressmen's districts). Everything in the federal budget was approved by a majority of Congress. Getting an elected official to admit a mistake and vote to eliminate something he (or she) supported before, isn't easy. And after you take away Social Security, welfare and unemployment (if you want to live on that compensation go right ahead, it's not much by the time it gets to recipients), and the Department of Defense, which can't get cut much more without hacking into bone, and there really isn't a lot left. A million here, a million there, just isn't going to do it. That's chump change. You need to eliminate entire programs or departments (yes, eliminating the IRS sounds like a good idea, but that's not going to happen).
4) We're going to do this again. Over and over. It's built into the deals that have been brokered over the last year ever since a simple, routine vote to raise the debt ceiling was turned into a political crisis by a bunch of Congressmen who haven't figure out how the government or the economy works. Yes, the debt is bad and getting worse. But it means taking a hard look at spending (see #3 above), not creating artificial time-sensitive crisis that cost us bond rating points, keeps Wall Street nervous and makes that upper 1 percent leery about re-investing in new jobs.
5) Congress merely delayed sequestration -- the draconian automatic budget cuts -- by two months, and we've got another debt ceiling vote coming up (remember the last one that cost us our bond rating?).
6) We've got to quit voting for crazy, stupid people. There are people in Congress right now we wouldn't hire as a greeter in Walmart because they're not bright enough to do the job. But they are using their telegenic charimsa and huge campaign funding bucks to get elected and make key decisions on the economy. As voters, we've got to be more involved in watching what they're doing -- and then remember come elections.
So, this week's political theater is over. Stay tuned for reruns.
-- Kelly Everitt
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