The late-night congressional voting that averted the notorious fiscal cliff kept us from lurching over the side, but we are by no means on safe ground.
Tea partiers who voted against the 11:59-hour compromise, led by House majority leader Eric Cantor, (R-Va.), are hoping to get their revenge when a vote on extending the debt ceiling occurs in a few weeks.
The New Year’s Day agreement raises taxes on individuals earning more than $400,000 and couples earning more than $450,000 a year and preserves the Bush-era tax cuts for everyone else. But paychecks will be slimmer this year; the employee share of the payroll tax increases to 6.2 percent from 4.2 percent. As a result of last-minute congressional shenanigans, tax planning and filing this year will be even more of a headache. And don’t expect a timely refund.
As U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) of east Cobb noted afterward, the “cliff” process “is no way to run a country.”
We couldn’t agree more, and suspect most Americans feel the same way.
Both Isakson and fellow Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) voted for the measure. Isakson said he did so because it protects all but the very richest Americans from a tax increase, protects farmers and family businesses from a ruinous increase in the estate tax and keeps some 30 million Americans from being snared by the higher Alternative Minimum Tax.
Unfortunately, the budget deal included next to nothing in the way of spending reductions. On the other hand, its passage will result in less damage to the economy than letting the Bush tax cuts expire (by doing nothing) would have. Passage also is less damaging that approving Obama’s initial proposal would have been. So a reasonable argument can be made that the deal was worth holding one’s nose and voting for — although tea party Republicans are in loud disagreement on that.
And there’s no dispute that the deal merely pushes many of the toughest questions about spending down the road a few months.
As Isakson put it, “You’ve got a new deadline and you’ve got a new cliff, (but) it’s not a fiscal cliff, it’s an accountability cliff.”
It’s actually more than a bit of both — and that’s even more scary and disheartening.