Fiscal cliff averted for now, but more drama looms
BY World's Editorials Writers
Thursday, January 03, 2013
1/03/13 at 5:25 AM
It's doubtful any American is pleased with the hard-fought compromise that averted the nation's fall over the much-discussed "fiscal cliff," but at least with passage of the measure by the House late Tuesday, we'll have a breather before the next round of political hysteria ensues.
If there is one thing Americans likely would agree on, it's that nobody is happy with the way our elected officials went about crafting this compromise literally at the last minute. Why couldn't our nation's leaders get around to resolving these issues months or weeks ago? What if all of us went about our workday duties in such a fashion?
By a bipartisan 257-167 vote Tuesday, the House approved the measure that avoids middle-class tax increases and dramatic spending cuts. A day earlier, the Senate approved the measure by a vote of 89-8 vote, a higher margin than expected.
For a while, it appeared a contingent of House conservatives might derail an agreement, but apparently the fear of being blamed for raising taxes on the vast majority of Americans helped win passage.
Though a fiscal crisis has been averted for the time being, nobody is happy with the outcome, including those who voted for it. The approved measure is far from a comprehensive plan that addresses both tax structure and spending.
The measure will cause tax rates to go up for individuals with income over $400,000 and families that earn more than $450,000, figures that represent a significant compromise over what President Obama had originally sought.
The bill also prevents expiration of extended unemployment benefits for an estimated 2 million unemployed people, blocks a 27 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements to doctors, halts a scheduled pay hike for members of Congress, and also blocks $24 billion in across-the-board spending cuts set to go into effect in coming months.
A 2 percentage point temporary cut in the Social Security payroll tax was not addressed, nor was the expiration of the payroll tax cut. So beneficiaries of those tax breaks will see increases in the coming year.
While the immediate crisis has passed, this by-now familiar scenario will start playing out again within weeks. Congress still must address the automatic spending cuts that have only been delayed for a few months, and it's inevitable there will be other showdowns on the debt ceiling and the budget in the coming year.
The best that can be said about this compromise is that it probably will be less painful than most of the alternatives.
But is this the best we can do? We expect and should get more from our elected leaders.
Original Print Headline: Crisis averted