It seem like it was just yesterday that congressional Republicans took the national debt hostage even though shooting it was never an option. Having just taken back control of the House on a wave of popular discontent over the federal government’s mounting red ink, the pressure was on the GOP to deliver.
It didn’t — and now the rout is on.
It has largely gone unnoticed amidst the hullabaloo surrounding the fiscal cliff, but regardless of what happens with the cliff negotiations, taxes are going up next year. The president may be calling for $1.6 trillion in tax hikes by 2022 in exchange for not driving the country over the cliff, but that does not count Obamacare, which will impose an additional $1 trillion in new or increased taxes over the next ten years, a big portion of which take effect in 2013.
It appears likely that congressional Republicans are eventually going to accept a tax increase in exchange for real spending cuts smaller spending increases in the future. If and when that happens, Speaker Boehner should surround himself with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy at the press conference on the deal.
For all those who think that our deficit is caused by a dearth of revenue, consider this thought experiment. In 2012, the federal government will spend $3.56 trillion. Last week’s Powerball jackpot was a reported $587.5 million, the largest winning Powerball payout ever. In order to finance current spending, the federal government would have to hit that jackpot 6,570 times.
One of the few things that politicians in the United States are good at is dealing with a problem by kicking the can down the road. That’s what happened in August 2011 when Republicans and Democrats reached an agreement to avoid breaching a statutory ceiling on the federal government’s mounting debt.
If you’re a hockey fan, you’re probably pretty irritated that the National Hockey League’s owners and players still haven’t reached a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement, and thus the 2012-2013 season remains in limbo. You also probably know that negotiations got off to a rough start after the owners, who are presumed to have the upper hand, made a rather insulting initial offer to the players.
How many times have we heard that the only thing standing in the way of a grand bargain to reduce our growing national debt is Republican intransigence on taxes? If Republicans would only agree to dump Grover Norquist, Democrats will agree to cut spending and reform entitlements. Then, we can all join hands and sing Kumbaya as we usher in a new era of compromise and fiscal responsibility.
The fiscal cliff is looming and Washington is scrambling to reach a deal to avoid a Thelma and Louise ending in January. To start, policymakers need to identify spending cuts, and they could begin with Senator Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) just-released report on wasteful and duplicative spending in the Pentagon. The report identifies savings totaling at least $67.9 billion over the next decade in the Department of Defense.