Everyone is arguing over the compromise of raising taxes (Democrats) and cutting spending (Republicans). The usual finger-pointing had ensued, with Democrats feebly crying obstruction on the few extra pennies they want, and one Republican even suggesting that they should let heavier taxes and no cuts take its toll, so long as the other side takes responsibility for the consequences. Yeah, right.
When asked by a professor friend of mine what I thought of the fiscal cliff, I said that either
(a) it is a purely rhetorical construct — creating popular truth through meme that will force politicians to act in some way as if it is real, or
(b) we fell of it a long time ago, say a trillion or two dollars back.
I didn’t hunt down who invented the concept (or the more important question of why), but it assumes there’s some point of no return, or a palpable, qualifiable or quantifiable disaster to be averted. It’s all a bit sketchy as to what sky is falling. But let’s assume good intentions on the part of both parties and see if that holds water.
The Republicans want cuts in the budget. Trimming the fat sounds good. Except the lion’s share of the budget is military spending, and no one will so much as mention it — not even Democrats who might be afraid of accusations of complacency toward perceived terrorist threats. But the glaring truth remains. Our military budget is arguably more than 10 times what is necessary to defend her shores from every angle, perhaps more than it takes to police the entire world, assuming we want to keep doing that.
So where do they want cuts? Benefits programs.
This is a sizable part of the budget, and reform would be a much-needed blessing. But why there? It’s probably the area their demographic voter base will least object to, and unlike the wars on drugs, terrorism, and the environment (a facetious reference to Big Oil interests), such things will keep the corporate campaign money tap open.
Most importantly, it will p*ss off the Democrats, who count on social programs to buy the votes of the growing masses of people using them.
The Democrats want more taxation on the rich (read “nearly anyone not poor enough to receive government benefits”). They want the Bush tax cuts dropped, and there’s a fog of war as to this meaning cuts on the Middle Class or just the far-above-median income households.
Theoretically, there’s only one reason to raise taxes — revenue. But the revenue from even extreme tax increases is a drop in the bucket of federal spending and debt. It’s like getting three band-aids instead of two for a severed limb.
So what is really going on here? On one hand, many people could pay more in taxes and it may not hurt the economy or even the individuals taxed. However, there’s no logical reason TO hike them up given the minimal impact it will have. Bluntly put, it’s more money they can waste, and the track record almost guarantees that is exactly what will happen.
So who are they appeasing? Objecting to cuts in entitlements protects a larger percentage of their known voter base, but is “taxing the rich” just frosting on the cake for the “fair share” criers? Why the class war? Or is it big government for its own sake?
Nah, it’s probably to p*ss off the Republicans, who count on the larger donors of the movers and shakers to fund their campaign ad budgets.
This all may seem petty. It is. But it’s not what you think. Grudges do not drive organizations of this scale — agendas do. So yes, their legislation targets each other’s voter base and financial supporters. That’s why Democrats wanted the DISCLOSE act, but the Republican’s couldn’t accept it because it didn’t include Unions. But alienating the supporters of the other side doesn’t hurt them — unless the other party accepts their demands in the compromise.
The solution to the “Fiscal Cliff” — if such a thing meaningfully exists — is for both parties to demand gestures that have two characteristics, ones that
(a) won’t close the budget gap anywhere near as much as other possible measures, and
(b) the other side can’t accept.
Being token solutions, and ones that just happen to be anathema to the other side of the aisle, we can deduce that neither party is interested in solving the actual problem — the budget gap and national debt. They intend to stay the course, and protect and expand their interests by counter-punching themselves out of any acceptable compromise.
They intend to fail. If nothing happens, it’s business as usual. If we fly off an actual impending cliff, they will both be able to blame the other for not making the hard choices. In other words, business as usual.