Once again, our nation faces a manufactured economic crisis, known to all as the fiscal cliff.
Unless Congress acts by year’s end, taxes will increase by $2,200 annually for the average American family. At the same time, automatic budget cuts will take effect that could thwart our economic recovery, threaten our national security, and shred the social safety net for citizens who haven’t yet gained their foothold.
The end result, according to most economists, would probably be another recession. We cannot afford that.
The maddening thing about this current crisis — like the showdown over the debt ceiling a year ago — is that it did not need to happen.
Remember the “super-committee” that Congress created to deal with the budget crisis? I opposed it from the outset as an abdication of Congress’ constitutional responsibility.
Sure enough, the super-committee failed miserably. That exercise in futility brought us to the current standoff.
The fiscal cliff is the creation of a Congress that was more interested in avoiding tough choices on spending and taxes than in creating the conditions to sustain economic recovery. We are teetering on the edge of the cliff because of a lack of leadership in Congress.
House Speaker John Boehner and Republican lawmakers stubbornly hold to their position that we cannot increase revenue by making the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans — most of whom have done exceedingly well in recent years — shoulder their fair share of the nation’s tax burden.
Yet we just held an election in which the American people resoundingly supported President Obama in his approach of protecting the middle-class tax cuts that have kept so many families afloat.
I remain hopeful that reason will prevail. Both sides should recognize the urgency of keeping the recovery alive and preserving middle-class tax cuts.
The man-made fiscal cliff should not be used as a device to raise the age of eligibility for Medicare or Social Security. It should not be used to cut social programs such as student loans, or to eliminate tax benefits such as the home mortgage interest deduction. It should not be used as leverage in a game of political chicken that benefits no one.
It should instead be a wake-up call to Speaker Boehner and other congressional leaders that it’s time to put obstructionism aside. It’s time for Republicans and Democrats to work together.
Let’s do what is best for our country. I served in past Congresses that did exactly that. Their discipline produced economic growth.
We need to restore regular order in Congress. The appropriations and budget committees need to do their jobs, working with a newly re-elected president who has earned a mandate to set a responsible economic course for our nation.
As our economy recovers, this is no time for political games and contrived emergencies such as the fiscal cliff. Congress should quit manufacturing crises and get back to manufacturing jobs.
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