One cliff avoided but others loom ahead
ELINOR TATUM Publisher and Editor in Chief | 1/11/2013, 1:23 p.m.
Burning the midnight oil and holding America, particularly middle-class and lower-income Americans, hostage over the fiscal cliff is just the latest in Republicans' intransigence and attempts to try to wield their power. While stopgap measures have been approved to hold off the devastating fall that the cliff promised, the fight for financial security is nowhere near an end.
What we have in store for us is a continuation of the politics of the last four years, where everything is on partisan lines, and in the end, the victims are the American people.
As the days and months progress, Congress will have to make many more critical decisions. In February, they will have to decide on many of the spending cuts that have initially been avoided. Then in March, they will have to re-examine the debt ceiling limit. In both cases, partisan lines will probably be drawn and the needs of the Americans most vulnerable will be left on the sideline.
In this deal so far, there are no real winners, despite the claim of some representatives that the "American people are the real winners." Taxes will go up for most Americans, but not by the levels that would have occurred had a deal not been made. There is still a lot to be sorted out, and at this point, what the end looks like is completely unclear. (See our story for more facts and figures on p.4)
What is most interesting in this saga is how divided the House Republicans are on the matter. While House Speaker John Boehner voted for the measure, many of his deputies went the other way. Only 85 Republicans voted for the deal while 151 voted against it. That is almost a 2-1 margin against.
Conversely, in the Senate, Republicans were much more unified, with only five voting against the measure. Though in the end we actually saw some bipartisanship, I doubt that will last past those two votes. So while this fight will go well into the year, there were some compromises that each side could cheer. The Democrats got to see Social Security and Medicare spared from drastic cuts, at least for the moment. While the Republicans didn't cheer, they got to exhale over the fact that some of the Bush-era tax cuts--the estate tax in particular--were still intact.
According to Rep. Charles B. Rangel, "This was a make-or-break moment for 160 million Americans who would have seen their taxes increase by 2 percent if we did not reach this last-minute deal. I'm relieved we were able to agree on a bipartisan solution that keeps income taxes low for the middle class and grows the economy."
While most of the Congress believes the deal is not perfect, it does address many of the immediate needs of Americans. The Child Tax Credit stays intact for five more years, and unemployment benefits get extended another year. These measures are paramount in trying to continue to stabilize the American economy. But for those still waiting for relief from the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, to have that measure scrapped by the Republicans is yet another example of their insensitivity, their neglect of those so desperately in need.
If the Democrats and the Republicans continue to work exclusively in a partisan fashion, there will be many more cliffs on the horizon. It is time, once again, to put aside petty politics and work in a productive, bipartisan manner. If that does not happen, it will be the American people who will be thrown off the cliff.