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Playing kick the can – Congress' best game

January 08, 2013
So once again, Congress has staved off utter disaster by coming together, shedding party politics and thinking only of the needs of Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty rather than their re-election hopes.

Except they haven't. The "fiscal cliff" debate was solved as most urgent problems seem to be solved in the Capitol – hastily and halfway, kicking the bulk of the issues down the road.

There were negotiations, to be sure. The president and Democrats raised their demands from increasing taxes on those making more than $250,000 to those making $400,000. The Republicans conceded to allowing any sort of tax increase.

The deal will raise an estimated $600 billion over 10 years. I may be slow with numbers, but I think that's only $60 billion a year in additional revenue. To put that into perspective, the 2012 federal budget deficit was $1.327 trillion. That's with a "t." To show how paltry it is, Congress is currently debating sending $100 billion to New York and New Jersey for hurricane relief. The money raised from the new taxes is a fraction of a percent of what is needed. While any move toward the black is surely a good move, I think they could have done more.

Officials did nothing to resolve the issue of government spending. Taxes seemed to make up the bulk of arguments from both sides, while the real issue is spending. Look at any budget from the government departments and most have about half their funds going into wages and other employee expenses. Like I said above, with more than $1 trillion in the red, something needs to be cut somewhere. However, instead of actually making cuts, Congress decided to extend current levels for another two months. So buckle your seats everyone, we'll be right back in "oh my god we're going to default" mode all over again by February. Right in time to start worrying about raising the debt ceiling.

(click for larger version)
Where are the budget cuts Republicans demanded? How did we avoid the fiscal cliff by using a Band-Aid?

I don't blame those Republicans who supported the deal – any deal was better than none. But the ball is in the Democrats' court to make significant changes to the way government is used and paid for.

The whole idea of the fiscal cliff was to make a nightmare scenario so horrendous both parties would have to compromise to make a deal. All Congress did was kick the can down the road. Like they always do.

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