Congress is back in session, the President is back in the White House. A fiscal “cliff” looms on the horizon, and the news is full of Benghazi, General Petraeus‘s love life, and nonsense. Yet hope springs eternal. Is it possible that we can see Congress move out of their own way and make a deal to increase revenue and decrease spending?
Be careful what you wish for. The increase in revenue means someone will have to pay more taxes. As it stands, there are many Senators and Congresspeople who have signed “no tax increase” pledges with a man called Grover Norquist. Now, who is Grover? Not your friendly blue superhero on Sesame Street I’m afraid. Instead, this Grover is a financier, a power-broker in Washington D.C. While it has never been shown that he has the ability to get someone “primaried” (otherwise known as challenged for their seat) it is largely believed that he can and will do so if thwarted or if one reneges on this pledge. So this man who has no real job in Washington, that we know of, definitely has some control over whether or not a deal can be made. The careful part I mentioned means that if not extended, the tax cuts that EVERYONE has enjoyed, from the financially strapped to the rich, will disappear at the end of this year. Failure to renew any part of them means we all pay more.
The increase in revenue is not the only pitfall. There will also be the cuts in spending. Many in the Senate and the House would have you think that Social Security and Medicare are breaking the government budget. That is somewhat interesting since they are calculated using different revenues and a whole separate spending account. Leaving those two programs aside for a moment, other spending cuts that are proposed seem equally geared toward hurting those who most need governmental assistance. Take the Heating Assistance Program, operated by Health and Human Services. Every person who receives heating assistance for their yearly heating bill must meet a poverty level financial bar. This means mostly elderly people who are still living at home, and families with dependent children. Of those two groups, which one gets the cuts? Another program is the aid to states for their Medicaid program. If Medicaid funding to the states is cut, the states will have to drop people from the Medicaid roles. This again means mostly elderly and children. Who gets those cuts?
Last year Congress voted to extend the allowance to oil companies for drilling and exploration. This assistance for their pockets has allowed them to post record profits for quarter after quarter. That’s right, each quarter beats the one before it. Apparently that was needed, though, so that we can continue our search for fossil fuels. In the meantime, funding for energy from wind, solar, and water has been put on the cutting table.
There are a lot of pitfalls ahead in this fiscal “cliff” debate. The biggest one is to ensure that the people who need our help get it, and the companies and very wealthy who do not need our help don’t. It is not a question of fairness. It’s mostly about decency. At least, IMHO.
- Is it game over for Grover Norquist? (salon.com)
- Newsmakers with Grover Norquist | C-SPAN (wadeedith.typepad.com)