OUR OPINION: Congress readies a political show

By NEMS Daily Journal

Another round of political showmanship is on tap this week in Washington. Showmanship is all it is on both sides. Tax proposals from Democrats and Republicans aren’t going to fly, but both sides want their positions on the record as they head into the fall presidential and congressional campaigns.
The Democrats are pushing the so-called “Buffet rule,” which would tax anyone making over $1 million annually at a minimum 30 percent rate. The Senate votes this week on a measure that would begin that minimum rate at $2 million and phase it in for $1 million earners, which Republicans will keep from passing.
Later in the week, the House Republican leadership will take up a bill to provide a 20 percent tax deduction for businesses with under 500 employees. It likely will pass the House and be rejected in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The outcomes of these piecemeal actions are known in advance. It’s all about impressing voters – and it’s timed to coincide with tax filing day this week.
This is symptomatic of the painful reality that political posturing has taken the place of real solution-seeking on the nation’s grave deficit and debt problems.
President Obama has spent much time lately pushing the Buffet rule, named after billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who famously said his secretary pays a higher tax rate than he does. The president has even acknowledged that his proposal would do little to reduce the deficit, but it has – or so the Democrats think – irresistible political appeal.
The Republicans, meanwhile, remain feverishly focused on tax reductions of assorted types.
Democrats balk at any changes or reductions to entitlement programs or significant cuts in domestic spending – witness the horror they’ve expressed at the House budget crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan – and Republicans not only don’t want any tax increases, they want to continue cutting taxes. Neither is a realistic way out of the fiscal crisis aggravated by years of having it both ways – expensive programs, tax cuts – and the more candid among politicians, past and present, acknowledge this fact.
The president appointed the Simpson-Boles Commission, which recommended some hard solutions, then he ignored what it suggested. Too much political pain involved, apparently.
Instead of acknowledgment of the nature of our problems, and the necessity of solutions that won’t pass anybody’s ideological litmus test, we get staged votes on proposals of minimal impact with no chance of passing whose sole purpose is to provide each party with electoral advantage.
After the election – then what? Real solutions that level with the American people, or yet more attempts to impress us without getting anything done?