Friday, January 04, 2013

The Fiscal Cliff and the Left

The Fiscal Cliff was an artificial construction. It came about when Congress was asked to raise the debt ceiling (again) and balked unless the unsustainable deficit was addressed. The eventual deal was that a super-committee would come up with a grand bargain that would address both the deficit and long-term entitlements. The Cliff was set up as an incentive for the super-committee to do its job.

The Super-committee failed miserably. The Republicans and Democrats are too polarized. I'm going to throw a lot of the blame at the Democrats. To make my case, I'm going to use left-of-center columnist Eugene Robinson. He wrote:

There is widespread agreement that the federal government faces two huge tasks. I would rank them in this order: First, encourage the sluggish economic recovery to gather steam, on the proven theory that solid growth makes our other problems much easier to solve. Second, take prudent steps to begin addressing our long-term debt problem and put entitlement programs on a sustainable course.

Some people would reverse those priorities and put debt reduction first. I think that would be a mistake. Let's have that argument. But we should all be able to agree that "none of the above" is not the right answer.

I agree with him. The trouble is that President Obama and the Democrats do not. Their top priority is not on Robinson's list. To them the nation's worst problem is that the rich are not paying a high enough tax rate. Nothing else is as important. They don't care if taxing the rich will hurt the economy. They seem to think that they can squeeze enough money from the rich to solve our debt problems but the rich are not that rich.

The Republicans offered deals in which the rich would pay more in taxes without raising the tax rates. This was rejected. The Democrats are fixated on the tax rate the rich pay instead of the actual amount of taxes. They have to be punished for being rich.

The items on Robinson's list aren't even on the Democrats' radar. Half-hearted attempts at stimulating the economy have given us the slowest recovery since the Great Depression. Throwing money at the economy through low interest rates and deficit spending is not working. Obama isn't even trying any longer.

The Democrats are going in the wrong direction on long-term debt. Obama's original offer called for twice as much new spending as new revenue. He and the Democrats have decided to take advantage of the political benefits of ignoring long-term problems and to leave actual solutions to future administration - what Obama called "kicking the can down the road."

Until the Democrats get serious about the nation's problems we will careen from one artificial crisis to the next.

No comments: