What the "heck" is a fiscal cliff and where is it? Do we have one in Newton County? Apparently we don't know because we are being lead around by the nose with glazed over eyes by politicians in Washington away from the real fall down into financial ruin of our country. President Obama and Harry Reid have become masters at strategy who utilizes magic tricks to focus our attention on the Bill they have spun up to supposedly handle our financial crisis at this moment, all the while we creep ever closer to the abyss that we can't even see. With the support and aid of the general media, we get so hyped up on the status of a piece of legislation before the Senate and House that we lose complete sight of the reason for action and the real cause of the hysteria.
Even the language used is camouflaged to dull the true view of what is actually happening. Taxes are called revenues and reductions in future spending increases are called spending cuts. We have now agonized over legislation that does nothing to avert financial disaster for the country because it does nothing to pull us away from the real cliff which is deficit spending. Wake up people! In plain language, it means spending more money than we have. You just cannot raise enough taxes to offset the massive spending of the government. There is only one solution to the problem and that is to stop spending more money than we have.
The next political confrontation is already taking shape as Washington braces for a fight in February over raising the nation's borrowing limit. But it is a debate President Obama said he will have nothing more to do with.
Imagine that, our president has never in his entire administration passed a budget to run the country but refuses to address the money he spends in excess of what money is coming in to run the government. That is a disgraceful position for the president to take and one I am ashamed to see in our country.
Even as Republicans vow to leverage a needed increase in the federal debt limit to make headway on their demands for deep spending cuts, Obama, who reluctantly negotiated a deal like that 18 months ago, said he has no intention of ever getting pulled into another round of charged talks on the issue with Republicans on Capitol Hill.
The president's position is sure to appeal to his liberal allies, who fear another round of compromises by Obama. But it once again sets the stage for a nail-biting standoff that economists warn could lead to a damaging financial default and doubt from investors about the ability of the country to pay its obligations.
Moody's, the rating agency, warned on Wednesday that the looming political battles over the nation's debt could lower the group's rating of American debt.
The financial imperative for an increase in the debt limit comes at a time of increasingly sour relations between the president and his conservative adversaries in the House. To secure a deal to avert automatic tax increases and spending cuts on Jan. 1, Obama was forced into last-minute talks with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.
Now, the president and the Speaker Boehner are signaling a fresh round of take-it-or-leave it stands that are in sharp opposition: The president said increasing the borrowing limit is nonnegotiable, while Republicans conservative Democrats say the House is all but certain to pass a bill that raises the debt limit only in exchange for significant cuts - a challenge to Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate. We need go no further than common sense to conclude that we have no choice but to lower the amount of money we are spending and set a limit on how much can be borrowed. The only strategy the American people can accept is immediate spending cuts and a hard ceiling on the debt limit.
Smarting from the president's victory on taxes over the New Year's holiday, Republicans in Congress are betting that their refusal to raise the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling will force Obama to the bargaining table on spending cuts and issues like changes in mandatory entitlement costs.
But doing so would inevitably reprise the bitter debate over the debt ceiling that took place in the summer of 2011, when the government came close to defaulting on its debt before lawmakers and the president agreed to a 10-year package of spending cuts in exchange for Republican agreement to raise the debt ceiling by about the same amount.
Meanwhile, the U.S. also ran up against the debt ceiling yesterday. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said the Treasury would do some short-term creative accounting to make sure the country doesn't default on its loans, which will buy two months before lawmakers have to fight it out again over increasing the debt limit.
The deal does nothing to address the reasons that the U.S. budget is out of control. Its focus on tax hikes rather than spending cuts is completely the opposite of what the country needs.
Hiking taxes simply isn't a solution. Until Congress and the president pursue serious spending cuts, the country and the budget will keep chugging in the same direction towards that fall off the cliff.
William Perugino is active in local and regional politics and can be reached at email@example.com.