The British think Americans lack a sense of the absurd.
Balderdash! Our political industry just spent $5 billion on what amounted to a status quo election, where we heard from talking chairs and learned how not to transport dogs, what constitutes a true Cherokee and the biology of rape.
When the time came to face up to the fiscal cliff, the same absurdist political class told us they were wrestling with fundamental questions of fairness, equity and the proper role of government, when they were actually just arguing about where to set the top income tax rate.
The compromise Congress passed on New Year’s Day blocked most impending tax increases and postponed across-the-board spending cuts due to take effect January 2, but it doesn’t come close to the $4 trillion “grand bargain” the country’s leaders promised to deliver.
Just hours after the Senate passed the narrowly-written compromise 89 to 8, the House approved the deal 257 to 167, with support from 172 of the chamber’s Democrats and just 85 Republicans. Symbolic of the deep divisions within the majority party, House Speaker John Boehner voted in favor of the compromise; the second ranking Republican, Eric Cantor, voted against it.
Once signed by President Obama, the bill will allow taxes to rise for those with incomes above $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples. It also will renew tax credits aimed at low-income households and college students, extend unemployment benefits, postpone for one year a planned 27 percent cut in Medicare payments to physicians and delay automatic spending cuts in defense and non-defense discretionary programs until March 1.
What the deal doesn’t address: the looming debt ceiling crisis; long-overdue entitlement reforms and a way around meat-axe cuts to national defense and vital safety net programs.
Our national leaders said they wanted to avoid the fiscal cliff when, in fact, they were really just avoiding the fiscal truth.