TERRE HAUTE —
A tattered curtain has finally fallen on the theater of the absurd that played out the past few days in the U.S. Congress. It was a frustrating spectacle to watch. And despite New Year’s Day’s late-night action to avoid the government’s going over the so-called “fiscal cliff,” it should be clear to all that Congress accomplished only part of its job.
The good news from congressional action is that income tax rates for the majority of Americans will not increase this year, although payroll taxes will increase. Only individuals making more than $400,000 ($450,000 for couples) will see tax rates go up.
The bad news is that the potential income tax increases on everyone was only part of the “fiscal cliff” problem. Drastic federal budget spending cuts that would have kicked in have been delayed for only two months. And that means there are more hard battles ahead.
As for Congress, the “fiscal cliff” was a problem of its own creation. And the political brinkmanship that brought the country to the point of economic recession came about because of an unwillingness to compromise until the very end.
The majority of the American people have long believed that the solution to the “cliff” was rooted in a balanced approach to dealing with the country’s financial and budget problems. That is still the case. Now that action has been taken to increase revenue by raising taxes on those with the greatest ability to pay, it’s now time to tackle the other part of a balanced plan — reducing government spending in a variety of ways, which should include reforms to Medicare and Social Security.
The job is far from done. And the new Congress sworn in today, with leadership from the Obama administration, must attack it aggressively. Neither Democrats nor Republicans will get all they want. But compromise, not gridlock, must finally rule the day.