Teetering on the Fiscal Cliff
After incredible, economy-damaging fuss and delay, Congress and the President started the New Year with an agreement to postpone the "fiscal cliff." Aspects of the fiscal cliff were avoided, but others, particularly spending cuts, were delayed for another two months.
I voted against the agreement.
I'm totally in favor of preventing the middle class tax increases and meat cleaver budget cuts, including dangerous defense cuts, which would have come about in the absence of a deal. But I very much wanted to express my displeasure with the near-absence of sensible, measured savings in the package.
Currently, the government borrows 31 cents out of every dollar it spends. The deficit last year was $1.1 trillion.
If you combine the federal public debt with the costly unfunded spending commitments we have made, the estimated total is more than $87 trillion, or 550 percent of Gross Domestic Product. The budget deal was a missed opportunity which Congress and the President should have taken to wean ourselves from unsustainable levels of spending.
Taxes were raised, as the President demanded. It's urgent that we also cut current spending while slowing the growth of future commitments.
In just a couple of months we will come up on the new, postponed fiscal cliff deadline, and the President will need Congress to increase the federal debt ceiling in order to raise the money needed to pay the government's bills. This will provide plenty of opportunity for more of the rancorous, dysfunctional behavior so hated by the public.
If many in Congress continue to raise a fuss about spending, it will not be out of hostility to the President. It will be because we are genuinely alarmed about federal deficits and the debt, and the terrible burden we are placing on our children, our grandchildren and the economy they will inherit.