Stumbling toward 
the fiscal cliff

A report from the Congressional Budget Office Wednesday reinforced the fact that should be obvious to every sentient observer, even those in Washington, D.C., wearing political blinders: We are headed rapidly toward a fiscal catastrophe.

Unless Congress acts before Jan. 1, the CBO said, the combination of $500 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts will plunge the nation into another recession and boost the national unemployment rate back over 9 percent.

We’re pleased to see that a biparisan majority of Colorado’s congressional delegation — including Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall and 3rd District Rep. Scott Tipton — recognize the problem.

Earlier this month, seven members of Colorado’s nine-member congressional delegation sent a letter to both parties’ leaders in the House and Senate. In it, they urged congressional leaders “to work together to allow consideration of a bipartisan deficit reduction plan ... before the end of the year” to avert an economic crisis.

Of course, it’s one thing to say, “We want a bipartisan plan.” It’s a bit like declaring, “We support peace, prosperity and puppies.” It’s far more difficult to agree on the details of a bipartisan plan, even something like the carefully developed Simpson-Bowles plan that’s now nearly two years old and has yet to gain any traction in Congress or with the White House.

But at least Udall, Bennet, Tipton and others from Colorado say they want to see some sort of bipartisan plan. On the national level, congressional leaders and presidential candidates are just firing broadsides at each other.

Republicans in Congress and Mitt Romney want the Bush tax cuts temporarily extended until meaningful tax reform can be enacted. The Bush cuts are set to expire Jan. 1 if no action is taken.

No way, say Democratic leaders and President Barack Obama. They want tax cuts extended only for couples making less than $250,000 a year. They want wealthy Americans to pay more, regardless of the consequences to the economy.

Actually, what’s needed is a combination of long-term spending cuts and broad tax reform that eliminates most tax loopholes, as the Simpson-Bowles plan outlined.

Unless that can be accomplished in the lame-duck session following the Nov. 6 election — a long shot, at best — Congress needs to come up with a temporary plan.

It would be a mistake, while our national economy is so fragile, for the federal government to simultaneously raise taxes and also significantly cut federal spending on both domestic and military programs.

That’s the fiscal cliff the CBO is talking about. Politicians of both parties are playing a dangerous game of chicken on the issue, and they are causing this nation to stumble toward that cliff.


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Dear Editors:

Today’s timely editorial – “Stumbling toward the fiscal cliff” – should focus the attention of “every sentient” Sentinel reader on the origins of our impending “fiscal catastrophe”.

While it is refreshing to see Scott Tipton depart from his Tea Party colleagues and join our two stalwart Democratic Senators in calling for “bipartisan” solutions, informed observers can interpret that as his recognition of Republicans’ culpability for the crisis.

Thus, the Sentinel’s endorsement of the Simpson-Bowles “plan” is quite revealing.  After a bipartisan House majority passed legislation establishing a fiscal commission, President Obama endorsed the proposal—but the Senate then rejected the legislation, with six of its Republican co-sponsors voting against their own bill!

President Obama then established the “National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform” by executive order and named Republican Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles as its co-chairmen.  The House named Paul Ryan as a member.

When the chairmen confirmed that both “long-term spending cuts and broad tax reform that eliminated most tax loopholes” were under consideration, anti-tax extemist Grover Norquist (whose “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” both Tipton and Ryan signed, thereby by subordinating their oaths of office to ideology) announced that “closing loopholes” were “tax increases” and were therefore “off the table”.

In response, former Senator Simpson (R-WY) observed that not “doing something with the income tax is a fakery”.

The “final report” called for annual discretionary spending cuts of $200 billion, “revenue enhancements” of $100 billion (raising taxes and closing loopholes), retaining the $716 billion Medicare savings under “Obamacare”, cutting some popular subsidies, raising the Social Security income cap, and reducing the corporate tax rate.

With all three House Republicans (including Ryan) voting against these “all or nothing” proposals, the Simpson-Bowles “plan” failed to achieve the super-majority required.

So, when will the Sentinel begin exposing Republican “fakery” and Romney-Ryan lies?

              Bill Hugenberg
              543 Rim Drive
              Grand Junction, CO 81507
Word Count = 300         257-1998

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