As I write this in between Christmas and the New Year I can’t help but wonder, “Are we there yet?” I am of course referring to the fiscal cliff!
It has been the subject of untold hours of discussion in the media and one business channel even has a countdown clock on the screen, like the countdown clock for a space shuttle launch. So, by the time you are reading this, we will know whether we are over the cliff or have managed to avert this calamity.
This is just the latest in a series of politically created crises that show how inept our political parties are at compromising to actually govern the country. I know the word “inept” is a strong word for me to use when describing our elected officials, but let me explain my point of view.
I first came to this conclusion about 18 months ago when Congress appointed 12 members, divided equally between each party and between the House and Senate, to address the debt ceiling crisis. This was called the super committee, which was given the power to negotiate a compromise to avoid an earlier fiscal cliff brought on by the debt ceiling limit being reached. This would have caused the U.S. to exhaust its authority to borrow funds to keep the country running and therefore go into default.
When this super committee was announced I was full of optimism that finally, common sense would prevail and behind closed doors a compromise could be worked out. To me a compromise is where neither side gets 100 percent of what they want, but can live with the negotiated outcome. They were given a deadline of six months and a few weeks before the deadline they made a joint statement where they did agree on one thing. They agreed that they would not be able to come to a bipartisan agreement before the committee’s deadline.
In hindsight the debt ceiling fiscal cliff should have been a non-event. It easily could be fixed permanently by one simple measure. That measure would automatically authorize the increase of the national debt ceiling by an amount equal to the amount of the budget deficit that was passed by both houses of Congress. Simple, huh? Too simple, as that would remove a hammer that one political party can hold over the head of the other.
Since then we have had a state of perpetual gridlock where things are highly bipartisan. Two phrases keep on popping into my mind that describes this pattern and they are “a hot potato” and “kicking a tin can down the road.”
We are truly facing a fiscal cliff and I do not mean the current one.
At some point in the future the country will have to make some really hard and difficult decisions. Our current path of a trillion plus dollars per year deficit is unsustainable and will have to be addressed. This can only be fixed by a compromise that will cause some pain on both sides. Taxes will have to be higher, whether it be corporate, personal, estate or other taxes, and a corresponding reduction of spending cuts to the military, health care, Social Security or other discretionary spending will be needed.
For every year we manage to muddle along without any real fix to the systemic problems, the height of the future fiscal cliffs will only be getting higher and higher and the consequences more painful when we do face them.
Wow, that was a deep and heavy subject for me to cover but let’s look on the bright side of the equation. I have 100 percent confidence in the resiliency of the U.S. population and workforce to face any adversity and come through it even stronger than before.
I wish everyone great success with their New Year resolutions and a very happy and healthy 2013.
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