Fiscal cliff dealings denote dysfunction, deep divide

Jan. 04, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

As most of us probably anticipated, the so-called federal “fiscal cliff” was averted with a last-minute deal earlier this week. Things went down pretty much as we've come to expect from this woeful Congress and this disastrous presidential administration: taxes went up, billions of dollars of new government spending was created, government got bigger and substantive problems with our economy were ultimately ignored.

Many Americans, like the stock market (which rallied strongly Wednesday), cheered the deal.

But those who jeered it got it right. One commentator humorously likened the “cliff” to an asteroid that we created and aimed at planet Earth … with Congress being dispatched at the last minute to save the day by shooting it down. Another said praising Congress for its fiscal cliff deal is “like giving an arsonist an award for putting out his own fire.”

At any rate, endless rounds of negotiations among the brokers in charge resulted in much more bad than good. David Malpass, a former deputy assistant treasury secretary, harshly criticized President Obama’s role in the deal, putting it this way: “… the president made clear that his goal isn’t to get business going again, but instead to expand government and redistribute income … . Though the president talks about fairness, his policies penalize profit and investment. This hurts aspiring Americans more than it hurts those who have already made it.”

Congress was a willing accomplice. Even though Washington had a full year to put together a workable deficit-reduction deal, its failure is somewhat palpable. Politics have divided Washington as sharply as ever, making things like governing and compromise hard-to-hit targets. Republicans, leery of the unfathomable deficits we've incurred, don't want to raise taxes at all. Democrats, loathe to give up entitlements or cut programs which fit their redistribute-the-wealth ideology, want more spending.

It's no wonder impasse is the the most common denominator in Washington.

As a result, the decisions Congress made this week are only setting the table for even more difficult debates about taxation and spending in the weeks and months ahead – debates that will include the debt-limit issue, which is still unresolved.

“A bloody fight” is how one analyst forecasted that discussion. About all the rest of us can do is sit back and watch the economy derail even further.

And to think that President Obama is already talking about raising taxes again next year … .