Update: 12/28/12: Since it appears that the country is going to have to deal with the impending massive increase in taxes and huge spending cuts, the carnival that is in fact our elected officials, especially in the Republican party, has officially been hijacked by the Tea Party. The dystopian vision of the Toilet Paper party is going to come to pass.
Uncertainty. Get used to hearing that word a lot over the next four weeks. Negotiations to stop the so called “fiscal cliff” or the more technical term “sequestration” from being imposed on January 1, 2013 begin in earnest shortly. It may seem a bit overstated, but a failure by Congress and the White House to reach an equitable agreement to set a course for long term spending and tax policy will have a potential devastating impact on the US economy, hurtling the country back into recession, and inflicting pain and chaos on our society. And though most people have little or no understanding of the path the nation followed to get to this point, the consequences of failure by our leaders to come to an equitable, long term agreement will resonate loud and clear to Americans.
It seems everyone has an opinion about the dangers of letting that deadline pass, when, by law massive mandatory spending cuts and tax increases will be imposed on American corporations and individuals. Some, from both political parties, have speculated that passing the January 1 deadline will be good for the country. By imposing such draconian remedies to spending and tax issues will force a real future economic path to be forged.
You know what sucks here? Politicians are posturing over an abstract argument about policy, and while ultimately they will pay little, if any price for their lack of leadership. This is not abstract, this is real world, and the decisions you all make in the next 4 weeks will impact the entire world. Let me say this loud and clear: President Obama, Senate and House members- STOP TELLING US WHAT YOU WON’T DO, WHAT DIVIDES YOU, BUT WHAT YOU CAN AGREE ON AND BUILD UPON. Be positive and not negative. This is a crisis situation. It is not business as usual. Remember that! Do not try to use misdirection by distracting the American people with nonsense. This is the only thing you need be working on.
Let’s just suppose for a moment that January 1 comes and no deal is reached. I have heard some estimates of up to 15 million jobs could be cut in the US economy. http://www.foxbusiness.com/economy/2012/11/21/ceos-launch-campaign-against-fiscal-cliff/. December is usually when corporations and small businesses alike make plans for hiring, expansion, and investment for the next year. Uncertainty (there’s that word again) will force a stall in all of those critical business decisions.
It is a shame that those in power seem to wait until the last minute to make decisions that affect millions of people. And it is clear that both parties have NOT heard the message sent in the election just held a few weeks ago.
The message that the American people sent to all politicians in this election was simple: WORK TOGETHER NOW!
Already posturing is being done on both sides of the aisle. Just recently 7 Democratic senators expressed support for keeping the Bush era tax cuts. Now..there hasn’t been ONE formal negotiation started over the “fiscal cliff” deadline, yet there they are scared little rabbits ready to cower and capitulate over a mandate that 74% of the American people endorse, eliminating the Bush era tax cuts. 5 of those 7 by the way are up for re election soon (imagine that!) And others will be talking about a “continuing resolution” to keep the government going for 6 or 12 months. The proverbial “kicking the can down the road.” This is some of the gutless, cowardly rhetoric coming from those who were elected to serve, and who created the “fiscal cliff” to begin with. Remember, “sequestration” was a last ditch measure to force the two sides to work together. It is not what was intended to occur. That’s how it has been sold, now, the wusses in Congress, who worry more about their own butts than the good of the American people, are trying to pass off as a reasonable alternative.
December 31 is going to get here a lot faster than many think. I would submit that the deadline is a lot sooner. Remember those decisions about hiring, investment, and expansion by business? They are happening now. Or possibly have already been made. Any short term agreement, or god forbid the implementation of “sequestration”, will keep the economy, most importantly, hiring in a holding pattern or regress into recession.
Consider this: If the politicos had the courage (and I use that word loosely) to have forged an agreement in 2011, would economic recovery have been so sluggish in 2012? Uncertainty is what is holding back the US economy from roaring back, that is keeping the 2 trillion dollars of corporate money on the sidelines, and freezing consumer confidence. And for what? It better not be for political gain!
President Obama has to understand as well that the mandate was not just to raise taxes on the wealthy. The country needs solid, non partisan objectivity by him to do what is in the long term interest of all Americans. Speaker John Boehner needs to understand that compromise is not just between the far right and the right. In a country that has to build consensus to move forward, everyone gets some of what their core principles espouse, but to realize that we do not live in an all or nothing society. Consensus, that is what the American people demand, and will settle for nothing less.
OK…I will get the ball rolling here. First. Mr. President, make sure that Congress stays in session until this deal is done. Be directly involved, and be very public about the negotiations. Even if everyone works Christmas day, continue on. Be creative and be open to all ideas. And…pressure needs to come from all of us on the outside, through coordinated efforts to make our leaders, whether Democrat or Republican, understand that nothing less than a long term equitable agreement is reached, and reached soon.
Look, I, and most Americans will never really understand the budget process in Washington. In a lot of ways the convoluted methods of spending and revenue were created in such a way to obscure questionable motives by politicians. Cleaning up tax loopholes, restructuring the tax code, and most of all making everyone have some skin in both the reduction of the national debt, and the long term stabilization of the American economy.
But one thing the American people understand loud and clear is this: You will all be held accountable if you fail in this effort.