The prospect of the United State’s economy falling off the fiscal cliff has Americans understandably concerned. After all, economists and other experts predict that if Congress and the president can’t agree on a way to keep the Bush-era tax cuts from ending and across-the-board spending from being enacted (as agreed to when the debt ceiling was extended in 2011) the economy likely will fall into another recession or, worse, a depression.
Senators, representatives and President Obama have had well over a year to deal with this potential economic disaster but have not been able to reach an agreement. A bipartisan congressional Super Committee was put together but it wasn’t very super. It flamed out as Republicans and Democrats refused to compromise.
Now, as the clock ticks toward an event that could devastate the country and little real progress has been made on negotiations, some political leaders are starting to downplay the urgency, claiming the consequences are overblown. Others are infusing politics into the debate so the Republicans can blame Democrats and Democrats can blame Republicans.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., seems to be a leader in the camp willing to jump off the fiscal cliff. Murray, who was a member of the Super Committee, will not accept the idea of cuts in spending without raising some taxes.
Murray said in an interview with Seattle Times reporter Kyung M. Song that after Jan. 1, “the risk is on the Republican Party very clearly” to avoid dragging the economy down. She contends the GOP thinks almost solely in terms of cutting and slashing, not investing and growing.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., believes Murray is issuing “political ultimatums” that would damage the economy.
“Our tax rates are already high, and it would be the worst time to raise taxes on anyone,” McMorris Rodgers said.
Murray, McMorris Rodgers and the other 533 members of Congress are taking a big gamble with this fiscal-cliff brinkmanship.
If this goes wrong the future of all Americans is on the line. The U.S. economy is fragile as the Great Recession has weakened the ability to weather another economic earthquake. Our 401(k) retirement accounts could be gutted as could the college savings accounts of parents. Millions of jobs could be lost.
This is not a risk worth taking.
And Congress and the president do not need to wait — no, make that must not wait — until the last moment possible to make a deal (or agree to a temporary solution, thus kicking the problem down the road).
Obama needs to show strong leadership and demand congressional leaders meet until a deal is reached — from early in the morning until late at night, day after day after day. No weekends off. No Christmas recess.
Congress has all the information needed to make a deal — so compromise and make it.