The made-for-taxpayers drama, “Over the Fiscal Cliff,” is still fresh in everyone’s memories, but Washington, D.C., has begun preparations to televise the next show in its 2013 programming lineup: “Debt Ceiling Raising for Fun and Unprofitability.”
The show’s name sounds familiar, doesn’t it? That’s because, like most Congressional television dramas, it’s a rerun.
Looking back on the final episode of the fiscal cliff-hanger, I think many of my fellow viewers would agree that the finale was lame and unsatisfying. Most of us will pay more taxes. Pretty much the only good thing about the fiscal cliff deal is that almost all of the Bush-era tax rates were made permanent. So no more insanity of Congress having to vote to prevent tax rates from automatically going up.
Until some idiot in D.C. decides to bring back “temporary tax cuts” again, that is. You just know somebody out there will try, but until then we at least can be grateful that families and businesses will finally be able to plan ahead financially for more than just a year or two into the future.
One of the many things that has contributed to our weak economic growth and persistently high unemployment has been the inability to predict from one year to the next how large the tax bill will be, how much insurance will cost, and how costly those mountains of federal regulations that may or may not take effect will be. Making tax rates permanent will reduce economic uncertainty and risk, and confidence in the economy should increase.
But like I said, that’s about the only thing good that came out of the fiscal cliff. The tax code still stands in dire need of simplification, entitlements are still bankrupting the country, and the federal government’s borrowing and spending of trillions of dollars a year have not slackened at all. None of that was touched by the fiscal cliff deal.
Well, the deal reportedly includes $2 billion in spending cuts. Isn’t that a good thing? No, it isn’t. To begin with, as Mark Steyn has said, $2 billion is “what the government of the United States borrows every ten hours and 38 minutes. Spending two months negotiating ten hours of savings is like driving to a supermarket three states away to save a nickel on your grocery bill.”
The government easily could have saved that much money and more if President Barack Obama had taken his wife and kids somewhere closer and less expensive than Hawaii for vacation.
But besides that, these aren’t real cuts at all. As I’ve mentioned before, when Congress claims to be “cutting” spending, they’re actually increasing spending, only by a slightly smaller amount than they originally proposed.
Page 2 of 2 - So they’re habitually spending trillions of dollars more than they can ever hope to take in, and they’re deliberately lying to us and themselves about it. These terminal cases of fiscal profligacy and fiscal mendacity that have afflicted Congress and the White House for so many decades prevent any chance of a return to sanity in D.C.
And so we prepare once more for the spectacle of Congress and the White House facing off over the debt ceiling. We’ve seen this show before, so we know how it will turn out. The debt ceiling will be raised, slimy pork barrel projects will be stuffed into the debt ceiling deal, and the nation will add another trillion or so dollars to the national debt — and everyone in D.C. will carry on as if the day of reckoning will never come, as if the U.S. will always be able to find enough foreign countries to try to prop up our tottering system by buying our debt.
About the only thing that might make this drama worth watching is the question of whether the Republicans will be able to get the Democrats to agree to a few more spending cuts, er, that is, spending increases that aren’t as quite as big as the Democrats want.
There could be another plot twist, though, because Nancy Pelosi has been muttering to herself some crazy talk about a 14th Amendment “solution” to the debt ceiling crisis. Somehow she’s discovered that, unbeknownst to anyone before, the 14th Amendment, passed at the end of the Civil War to prevent the Union from being held liable for the Confederacy’s debts, gives the president the authority to borrow money without so much as a Congressional by-your-leave.
As this time the White House says it doesn’t agree with that unhinged re-reading of the Constitution, but then this is the same White House that purported to make “recess” appointments while the Senate was in session, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the Obama administration would go for this “solution” if push came to shove.
And if that happens, then it’s pass-the-popcorn time.
Jared Olar may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the newspaper.