And now that the hoopla is all about the disingenuous "Fiscal Cliff" being averted, what exactly was accomplished from this "serious" crisis? As they often say, "the devil is in the details." But what was this really about and how was it resolved? Was it even resolved at all? Since I have already written about the "Fiscal Cliff" you all should know that it was created by Congress because Democrats and Republicans could not reach a Grand Bargain on spending cuts and revenue measures. Right? Almost. Back in 2011, Obama tried to reach a Grand Bargain with the GOP in the House by offering $10 in cuts for every $1 in new spending. House Speaker Boehner agreed, but by the time he returned to the Capitol from the White House, his own caucus was ready to run him out of Washington. No Deal! Why? Because the 2010 Midterm Elections swept so many new GOP Tea Party members into the House, the GOP felt confident they could engage a strategy to severely damage Obama, so much so that they began a pattern commonly known as classic "over-reach" with proposed legislation on social issues such as reproductive rights of women and same sex marriage... instead of working to accomplish their 2010 campaign strategy of "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs." The GOP was only interested in the job Obama possessed, the Presidency. In a purely partisan manner, the GOP set aside any concern for the Nation in an effort to destroy Obama so an easy presidential election victory in 2012 would be assured for the GOP nominee. We know how that turned out! Now the GOP is stuck putting together the Humpty Dumpty they pushed off the wall. They never imagined all of the broken pieces would be their own GOP Coalition!
So what did we get from the "Fiscal Cliff" saving Bill? Not a whole lot. Although income tax rates will go up on capital gains from 15% to 20% and ordinary income from 35% to 39.6% for Americans earning net income of at least $400,000 per year, the actual income affected by the new rate is closer to $500,oo0 (gross before deductions). I shed no tears for these folks and still cannot fathom why the GOP was so hellbent on protecting them. We also averted the dreaded self-imposed
"Sequestration" or mandatory cuts to spending, including Defense and "Entitlements." But the sequestration was not eliminated, the Bill simply "kicks that can" down the road for another two months. Did the Bill address the looming use by the GOP to hold the nation hostage when the debt ceiling has to be raised? Nope. Although the Bill extended unemployment benefits for an additional 12 months, it also allows the payroll deduction for Social Security to expire, immediately reducing Americans' paychecks by 2%. It also set aside tax benefits to those operating race tracks, such as NASCAR. Huh? Yup, NASCAR, obviously more important to our National Security than say, guns. Which makes me wonder, what percentage of NASCAR fans own two or more firearms? There has to be a statistic there somewhere!
Yes, there were extensions of credits to other entities, like wind power, restoring threatened cuts to Medicare reimbursement to physicians, and freezing any pay raise for Congress (how bad would America react to Congress giving themselves a pay raise?), but instead of cutting any real spending, the Bill actually increases spending while ignoring that we still have not dealt with deficit reduction or the need to rebuild our tired and aged infrastructure. So in reality, was it really a "Cliff" as was promoted by the Media, or was it a "Bump in the road" as Obama claimed Benghazi was? And who really won in all of this Crisis avoidance? President Obama? What did he actually win? He is still going to have to deal with the GOP in Congress to move any policy agenda forward. The Republicans? Well, they certainly have lost and lost a lot. But sometimes a loss makes a team stronger. Will Eric Cantor and the Tea Party wing of the Congressional GOP learn that although their constituents elected them, an overwhelming majority of Americans did not? Will they realize that their ideological brand has been tarnished so badly that they need to step back and watch how the Democrats deal with the pressing needs of this Country? And the Democrats? Yes they have won, but it is only a short-lived victory. As history has shown time and time again, if the Democrats do not allow the GOP to be a partner in legislating, they run a serious risk of playing the same "over-reach" card previously played by the GOP, and it will not be the GOP pieces that have to be picked up next time.
The Democrats in Congress have their first chance in the 21st Century to lead. By doing so, they must remain active, strong and inclusive. Democrats must be careful not to assume America will be "with them" on everything they propose. They must remember the GOP still has a powerful ally in Right Wing media that can still shape many a public opinion. I can only hope they don't blow it by becoming over confident and find their own Humpty Dumpty broken on the ground!