While Washington was deadlocked over a solution to the fabled fiscal cliff, it became clear that there is a shocking lack of leadership in the nation’s capital. In the final hours before the 112th US Congress ceases to exist, a compromise was reached. First, the Senate, and then the House of Representatives agreed on a patchwork of agreements to avoid the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ that would end the Bush Tax Cuts and impose high taxes on every American taxpayer.
Throughout the whole process, one thing was crystal clear: from the White House to both houses of Congress, no one has been effectively carrying the ball for the American people for quite a long time. Instead, the game of politics continues to rule the plays, the blame game is the rule of the road, nothing of consequence gets done, and no one is accountable.
From the beginning of the latest round, the President refused to lead, calling for compromise on the one hand, but stating unequivocally that one half of the compromise, spending cuts, “were not on the table”. It was only as the clock ticked down to the final hours that the Democratic-led Senate could muster the necessary leadership to end the deadlock and find a compromise that could be passed.
In the Republican-led House, in the late hours of New Year’s Day, the majority of Republicans also voted for the amended Senate bill, enabling it to pass. Instead of focusing on the real needs of the nation, ending the unrestrained spending, the irresponsible borrowing and printing of currency, the bill focused its attention on raising taxes (politely called ‘revenues) on everyone. It included a rise in the income taxes of anyone earning more than $400,000 (the big compromise!) and on the payroll tax for everyone, but no spending cuts. In the rush, promises to the American people were forgotten.
To be fair, the Republicans had dealt themselves a bad hand. By not standing up for principles early, they were faced without a good choice at the end, and accepted a ‘revenue’ bill without addressing the real problem, unrestrained federal spending.
Our national debt of nearly $16.5 trillion is over 100% of the GDP – in short, we owe more than we produce. This is, at the very least, unsustainable. Yet, incredibly, the President signed, by Executive Order, a last minute across the board raise for Federal workers, which, happily, Congress canceled with an overwhelming majority vote last night.
The President has also asked for carte blanch to borrow as much as he wants whenever he wants, without Congressional consent. That is patently absurd on its face, as well as unconstitutional, yet the Republican majority in the House has barely acknowledged this demand and most of the mainstream press has ignored it completely.
The reality is clear. We cannot continue to borrow or print money to buy our way out of this debt, and we surely cannot keep spending the money we don’t have. If the government cannot get its act together, our economic growth will stop completely, our credit will be destroyed, more Americans than ever will be without work, the cost of food will skyrocket, and our money will become worthless. The entitlement programs, which now consume two thirds of our federal spending, will collapse, and those in our society who are most vulnerable, will suffer the most.
Yet the President was unwilling to even discuss a cut in spending. Instead, he built his entire case for economic stability on raising taxes for everyone, despite his campaign promises to the contrary. Although he promised unequivocally “no new taxes on the middle class”, he now demands new taxes on everyone. Earlier this month, he refused to even consider a House proposal to achieve equivalent revenues through closed tax loopholes, and then blamed the Republican House for the stalemate.
There is no room in this discussion for the blame game. Neither President Obama, nor Speaker of the House Boehner, nor Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has shown the leadership that the American people need to see the nation through the current financial crisis. In this case, if blame is to be given, everyone on Capitol Hill is to blame. The consummate lack of leadership in Washington is going to lead us into a deep and painful recession, despite the compromise.
Washington needs to take note. While they escaped the fiscal cliff by a hair, there is a much greater cliff looming in the near future if the runaway spending is not brought under control. It is time for our elected officials to show their backbone and the will to represent the people who elected them. The time for politics is over. The time for statesmanship is right now.