Congress deals with ‘cliff’ work in typical fashion

Published 5:09 pm Thursday, January 3, 2013

That Congress waited until the last minute to reach an agreement to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” should come as no surprise to anyone. Neither should the fact that the deal doesn’t do everything necessary to fix this country’s economic ills.

     The deal simply appears to be more of the same from the Washington playbook. It’s just that the stakes were a little higher this time.

     In the end, the agreement includes just enough to allow both political parties to avoid the blame for a middle class tax increase that would have happened without action. Enough Republicans went along with plans to increase revenue, but the targeted threshold was not as low as President Barack Obama and other Democrats wanted.

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     The art of compromise means neither side gets everything it wanted.

     That was certainly true in this case as conservative Republicans can grouse that the deal doesn’t do enough to cut spending while more liberal Democrats complained additional revenue will not be sufficient. The GOP may have a little bit better argument in that one estimate said the deal will add $4 trillion to the deficit.

     “Allowing more revenue today and promising to look at cutting spending down the road is the oldest trick in the Washington book. Somehow, the day to cut spending never comes,” said Mississippi 1st District U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee.

     Nunnelee, along with fellow Mississippi Republican representatives Gregg Harper and Steven Palazzo, voted against the “fiscal cliff” deal. Second District U.S. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., supported it.

     Breaking from their House counterparts, both of Mississippi’s U.S. senators, Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, cast votes in favor of the “cliff” deal. Both, however, indicated the agreement is far from perfect.

     “There is much more work to be done to responsibly implement spending cuts and other measures to reduce the federal deficit and national debt,” Cochran said.

     While both parties may claim the agreement is not ideal, what cannot be argued is things could have been worse.

     Since the deal did not prevent a temporary payroll tax cut from expiring, almost all Americans will be seeing more come out of their paychecks once necessary data is collected and prepared. A Tax Policy Center analysis said households making between $40,000 and $50,000 will face an average tax increase of $579 this year.

     An income tax hit could have taken a bigger chunk, had an agreement not been reached on extension of Bush-era tax cuts for individuals making less than $400,000 a year. That move will mean a continued benefit for 99 percent of U.S. citizens.

     Any bipartisan feelings of accomplishment felt Wednesday will fade as soon as the next political dispute over a looming economic crisis surfaces. No one should be surprised when Congress waits until the last minute to fix it, either.