Watch out for the cliff

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The 2012 election is over but a person wouldn’t know it if they were paying attention to what’s going on in Washington. The issues that should have been front and center during the presidential campaign (but weren’t) are being debated between the victor—President Obama—and the Republican leaders.

The so-called fiscal cliff is fast approaching. There are 24 days until the rate for every taxpayer in the country increases and billions of dollars of automatic cuts take effect. The fight is the same as it has been for years: the Republicans don’t want to raise taxes on the rich. The president wants everyone to pay their fair share and spread the pain while protecting the middle class.

The presidential election didn’t solve anything. Opponents of the president continue on as if more than 120 million Americans did not vote. Recent polls show that a large majority of Americans want the two sides to come to a compromise before the December 31 deadline. But that seems to fall on deaf ears. For some it’s all about winning at all costs and denying the president a victory.

The national media has painted the looming fiscal cliff as the darkest, worst thing that can happen to the nation.  Perhaps. It is interesting to read some of the dollar figures being proposed; this week House Speaker John Boehner softened his stance a wee bit and said he would be open to increasing taxes by $800 billion over the next 10 years. That is $80 billion a year at a time when we have a $1 trillion a year deficit and a national debt that’s over $16 trillion. The math really does not add up.

If the president and Congress truly want to put the country on more stable footing they will have to start talking about the kind of numbers that will shock Americans. It will take a lot to reduce a $1 trillion deficit to levels we haven’t seen in decades.

Let the country go over the fiscal cliff, shock the system, get Americans mad enough to demand an agreement that starts the country on a path to fiscal responsibility. That will take nothing less than a combination of closing tax loopholes, increasing taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year, and spending cuts across the board, which has to include defense spending.

The U.S. is winding down its involvement in Afghanistan; the war in Iraq is over, for all intents and purposes. The country needs to be ever-vigilant and be ready to defend itself; however, we need to ask ourselves if we’re getting our money’s worth. The two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost about $1 trillion. We did achieve the military goals that were set: we overthrew Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Osama bin Laden was captured and killed. Despite those outcomes the war on terror is a part of our new normal, a war that needs to be paid for.

If no agreement is reached by the end of the year sequestration will force automatic cuts, including almost $500 billion for defense. Domestic spending cuts—another $700 billion—will harm the most vulnerable in our society.

The United States did not get to this point overnight, and we won’t get out of it quickly. But the politicans and officials in Washington, D.C. need to put their big boy pants on, get back to the negotiating table and do what is right for the American people they swore an oath to serve.

Whether it’s a fiscal cliff or a fiscal curb, it’s a scenario that should be avoided with all the tools at  hand.

—LAZ

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