The Government Accountability Office, Congressional Budget Office, Office of Management and Budget, and the U.S. Treasury Department report that the federal government is facing a series of financing challenges. Tax revenues have declined significantly due to a severe recession while expenditures have expanded for unfunded wars, unemployment insurance and other safety net spending. The scenario, if unchanged, could result in tax increases and spending cuts.
No matter how we got in this mess it commands serious attention. But I’m worried that D.C. politicians treat the situation like a game when both sides refer to having a good hand or a bad hand to play, having good field position, or that a solution is to kick the can down the road. Those aren’t just metaphors. The remarks demonstrate a mindset and beg the question, are there any adults in the room?
Economic stalemates aren’t pretty. Last year’s impasse over raising the debt ceiling resulted in a never-before downgrading of the nation’s credit rating. And there are consequences outside our borders. Global markets react to our economic decisions: good, bad or delayed.
I strive to stay abreast of the unfolding drama but need assistance. Negotiations to avert Cliff 2012 started with weak proposals from both sides (you never open with your best offer) and weak counter-proposals. The back and forth and commentaries from the chattering class leave me confused. I need to have the mountain of pertinent information wrapped in a yellow cover emblazoned with thick diagonal black stripes like the CliffsNotes from my college days. Maybe then I can understand what it all means.
What sacred cows are vulnerable and whose ox will be gored? Cattle references aside, is the Obama or Boehner plan more feasible and why? Do we extend middle class tax cuts or increase taxes on the richest 2 percent? Is tax reform a necessary part of the fix? What about stimulus spending and debt to GDP ratio? Is it too late to adopt the Simpson-Bowles Plan? What will sequester mean? If we go over the cliff, what will the international fallout be? Where do polls show the voters stand? What’s at stake? Is any economic challenge solvable when the numbers end with 12 zeros?
Please help me CliffsNotes. I can’t be the only one with questions. What solutions can the public expect and is there a win-win to be had? The consequences are dire and the problem is in the hands of lame ducks eager to head home for the holidays. But tough problems don’t take a holiday.
I had hoped for post-election compromise but it’s difficult for elected officials to be courageous on this issue. Taking an unpopular stand risks being “primaried,” an aggressive challenge mounted on the left (from Democrats) or on the right (from Republicans) on the grounds that the incumbent has not been sufficiently partisan. Threats from the NRA, or from Grover Norquist, based on his pledge, act like a trap door. One wrong move and you’re done.
When Saxby Chambliss recently disavowed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, Norquist all but announced that he will find and fund a primary challenger against him in 2014. That response resulted in furious back-pedaling from Chambliss.
The current movie “Lincoln” is on my mind because it shows a model that might prove instructive. I’m not equating the moral morass of slavery with the cliff conundrum. The parallel is the importance of getting things done, in the words of French intellectual Jean Paul Sartre and 1970s black power proponents, “by any means necessary.”
If the Mayan calendar proves accurate, December 21 nullifies all worries. If not, I saw a video recently where a citizen demanded that elected officials not be paid until they do their job. Hear, hear.
Murphy is a member of the Carrollton Creative Writers Club and the Carrollton Civic Woman’s Club. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.