Without an agreement between the White House and congressional leaders within five days, every American family, and certainly every government agency, will feel the pain. Taxes will go up on everyone. Spending cuts will be across-the-board, regardless of priority. Americans’ retirement savings will likely take another hit as the stock market convulses at what would be an epic failure of political leadership on both sides.
Some in Washington, incredibly, seem to want this to happen, either for perceived political benefit or stubborn ideology. That attitude is the height of irresponsibility.
The fiscal cliff looms in the first place because Congress couldn’t find the political will to address the problem of deficits and debt earlier. It seems the federal government only becomes more dysfunctional as time goes on.
Not to reach a solution that avoids the fiscal cliff would be unthinkable to most rational people. Reason, however, is in short supply in Washington, unlike the days when Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill or Bill Clinton and Trent Lott hashed out deals that gave neither side everything it wanted but that were understood as necessary for the good of the country.
That House Speaker John Boehner got pushback from tea party-oriented House Republicans on his willingness to raise tax rates for people making over $1 million isn’t surprising given where our politics is these days, but no less unfortunate because of it. Sure, it’s giving up something, but it’s hardly a sellout, given that it would prevent taxes going up on everyone else. It’s the minimum Republicans should agree to do.
Democrats, on the other hand, are wrong to resist any reductions in entitlements, the heart of the deficit problem, particularly to phased-in changes in the Medicare eligibility age. No agreement to reduce the deficit and the national debt will be effective without some adjustment in entitlements.
Both sides must give and meet somewhere roughly in the middle. That’s what Americans expect, not the stubborn stalemate that stands to throw families and the country into financial turmoil.