There is only one lesson to take away from the GOP-manufactured
mess called the “fiscal cliff”: Never reduce taxes. Just don’t do it
because when it comes the inevitable time to pay the piper, the shock is
too great for the middle class. Plus, it’s unnecessary to put people
All of the tax-cut madness that arose when conservatives took over Washington in 2000 put the country on the road to ruin. From rich to poor, everyone got a little something back in two rounds of George W. Bush tax cuts. But they were mostly tailor made to the rich who have just gotten richer in the last decade while the poor and middle class have needlessly suffered.
While making these tax cuts, Bush and the neocons kept up spending. They
embarked on a two-front war and borrowed money to pay for it.
Keep in mind that President Clinton had the nation in great fiscal shape. Tax rates were nominal but still higher than the Reagan-Bush years, business was booming and the federal government had a surplus. Since it is commandment number one for conservatives to cut taxes, they did so under Bush to deliberately defund the government and its ability to promote the general welfare of its citizens. It was the conservatives’ dogma that it’s good to give Americans back their money.
After all, a flat-screen TV for one is better than food for the hungry.
Also, low tax rates, conservatives claim, lead to more jobs. If that was the case, we would’ve been up our ears in jobs during the Bush years but hiring was moderate because the rich took all their newfound largesse and spent it on themselves.
Because of the obtuse GOP and Democratic spinelessness, we walked up to a
fiscal cliff. This time, however, President Obama stiffened when tea-party
rage forced Speaker John Boehner to act in the best interests of the tea
party and not the nation. Boehner’s eventual capitulation and the hurling
of oaths, a la Dick Cheney, toward Harry Reid was poll driven. The GOP was
going to take a public beating if it let the government go off the cliff.
The bill was good for the middle class and certainly didn’t harm the rich. In fact, conservatives were moaning that any tax hike on the rich would weigh down the economy. As soon the cliff deal was made, the stock market shot up. I guess the rich weren’t too concerned.
What’s going to go up for the middle class is the payroll tax, which funds
Social Security. Again, there never should have been payroll tax relief
the past two years. That money is needed to keep Social Security solvent.
The tax cuts that led to this mess should never have been done. It’s gratifying that the Republicans scored no major cuts in government spending but sequestration cuts will begin kicking in soon.
Those need to be stopped by Democrats. Government spending has never been the problem. In fact, government spending is needed to get the economy into a higher gear.
The problem is gross inequality fueled by irresponsible tax cuts. When the
American people voted in November it was a rejection of Republicans
forced austerity through draconian spending cuts. Spending on social
programs and health care ensure that the nation is put before the special
interests who see tax dollars as a bonanza to the private sector.
Now the Democrats have to step up and thoroughly reject the tea-party horde in the House.
Stephen Dick is a columnist for CNHI News Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.