It's that time of year again, time for fresh starts, optimism for the future, and New Year's resolutions. Unfortunately, there's nothing fresh, optimistic, or resolute coming out of our nation's capital these days. After a months' long game of political chicken, Congress managed to maneuver its way around the worst elements of the dreaded "fiscal cliff" at the 11th hour. What they failed miserably to demonstrate is an ability to address America's dire fiscal situation in a serious manner.
In describing the "grand bargain" that emerged from weeks of rhetorical back-and-forth between the White House and Speaker Boehner's office, the Wall Street Journal had this to say:
"The Senate-White House compromise grudgingly passed by the House is a Beltway classic: The biggest tax increase in 20 years in return for spending increases, and all spun for political purposes as a 'tax cut for the middle class.' But taxes on the middle class were only going up on January 1 because the politicians had set it up that way, manufacturing a fake crisis. The politicians now portray themselves as scrambling heroically to save the day by sparing the middle class while raising taxes on small business, investors and the affluent."
Indeed, Congress taking a bow for averting the fiscal cliff is like an arsonist claiming credit for putting out a fire that he started. The "fiscal cliff" was a creature of Congress's own creation! Congress orchestrated a recession-inducing convergence of tax hikes and spending cuts as a way to coerce themselves into getting serious about passing a balanced budget, addressing the deficit, and initiating entitlement reform. Now our august representatives want to take credit for escaping the potential danger that they created, all the while having managed to avoid doing anything to address the problems the whole sequestration contingency was geared towards solving. Only in Washington, D.C., can such a pathetic outcome be spun as a victory for the people.