UPDATE: 1/1/ 13 At the last possible moment —indeed, after the official deadline had past— a bi-partisan deal temporarily averting the worst effects of the fiscal cliff was achieved. The details of the compromise are here. But nothing I see in it would cause me to change any of the conclusions I reach below. It seems that the fiscal can was kicked down the road once again, for our craven leaders avoided doing their jobs: dealing with the debt ceiling, reigning inexcessive government spending, and fixing a dysfunctional budget process. As the Washington Post stated on its front page today:
“The “fiscal cliff” was designed by Washington for Washington — it was intended to set up a scenario so severe that the president and Congress would, at last, have to take on the nation’s major tax and spending problems. Instead, lawmakers again found a way to sidestep many of the prickliest issues and in the process set up other, potentially more severe, showdowns in the new year.”
Additional taxes go into effect (supposedly an additional 600 billion over the next decade—a drop in the bucket), but no serious cuts in spending will be made, and the net effect is simply to delay considering responsible fiscal reforms until the next crisis. Our weak and feckless national leaders were minimally effective to the extent that they managed to avoid the worst possible result, looking as bad as possible in the process, waiting until the clock had run out. Do you find that encouraging, impressive and promising? I don’t.
It is disgusting.
The failure of America’s elected leaders to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff,” an artificial deadline that they set for themselves the last time they proved incapable of being fiscally and legislatively responsible, is frightening and dismaying proof of their utter incompetence, irresponsibility and cowardice.
While the worst condemnation ought to fall on the President, as he is in the highest office and thus bears the most responsibility when the government fails, the easiest way to spot partisan and biased individuals from now on will be to note those who claim that one party or one branch of government is more blameworthy than the other. I don’t want to hear it. All sides and interests had a duty to the nation, and they all failed us.
Recall that all of this begins and ends with the imperative of reducing the deficit in future years and beginning to pay down the unsustainable debt. Neither party, nor President Obama, nor the Senate (which has not passed a budget in years), nor the Republican-controlled Congress, have been honest or realistic about the crucial and pressing need to reduce spending significantly (which requires reforming so-called entitlements, as well as other painful cuts) and to increase revenue through increased tax rates and reduced tax deductions. By their irresponsible and utterly stupid bungling of this escalating crisis, they have embarrassed the nation, weakened its defense, undermined its economy, risked the welfare of hard-working and vulnerable citizens, endangered the world and placed the future of the nation in peril.
It is unforgivable. Sharing the shame in this display of complete leadership incompetence are such culprits as the national media, which allowed both parties to avoid the topic of how sequestration would be averted through the entire election cycle; government watchdog groups, which made nary a peep as two years passed with the “cliff” looming, and Congress wasted its time passing show-bills to thrill its most radical constituency, while the President campaigned and fiddled; and the unengaged, naive and polarized public, who have sent the message that there will be no consequences of a jointly-managed fiasco that threatens to crush generations to come…their children. A great job all ’round, Americans.
We enter 2013 with the permanent decline of the great American experiment evolving from a possibility to a probability, because, arguably for the first time in its history, the United States wasn’t lucky. This time, when the nation needed visionary, talented, courageous and bold leaders to address an epic crisis, there was nobody there but cowards, hacks, pygmies, narcissists, petty partisans and amateurs.
Happy New Year.
Graphic: According to Jewels