Initially, the thought that America is headed off a financial cliff — a wreck that can be avoided — seems fundamentally absurd.
Surely no group of people, no matter how divided, would purposely shatter an already weak economy and risk the ability of the U.S. military to protect the nation’s shores.
Then, you realize ... we are talking about Congress here ...
Cowboy philosopher Will Rogers may have said it best in this quote attributed to him: “This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.”
To be fair, not every lawmaker in Washington, D.C., is so focused on political party dominance that he or she is willing to let tax rates rise across the board and let across-the-board spending cuts hit every federal government program from education to the military in meat cleaver fashion. Unfortunately, however, enough legislators are willing to do just that — sacrifice the common good for the benefit of the party good — so that there’s significant doubt in the minds of many that this lawmaker-created disaster can be avoided.
The whole process Congress went through to set up this real-life cliffhanger was botched from the beginning.
First, there was a true bipartisan effort last year to deal with federal spending. U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Moultrie, was one of the Senate “Gang of Six” — three Republicans and three Democrats — that did an amazing thing, especially these days.
Their plan was designed to cut $4 trillion from the federal deficit over a decade and included increased tax revenues from closing loopholes, repealing a long-term health care program in the Affordable Care Act, cuts from some federal health care programs, and a “down payment” of four years of spending ceilings that would have been imposed on daily operations of cabinet agencies set by annual spending and by lowering cost-of-living adjustments in Social Security benefits growth, according to reports at the time.
The plan, which had parts each party liked and parts each party opposed, went nowhere. Congress chose instead to punt the solution to a co-called Super Congress, which proved to be anything but super — or even capable. No one with the Gang of Six, the only group with any proven inclination to cross party lines for the greater good, was included in the special bipartisan committee that was given incentive by lawmakers’ inclusion of the nuclear alternative — the indiscriminate budget cuts and tax increases that are set to go into effect on Jan. 2, 2013.
The Super Congress met secretly for several months, then admitted toward the end of 2011 that it had failed.
The clock’s been ticking since. It’s now down to less than five months.
And that has many Democrats and Republicans doing what they do best, particularly in an election year — pointing fingers and complaining that the “other side” is the problem.
What we’re headed for is a lot of inaction other than tongue-wagging until after the Nov. 6 elections. The president and Congress are more concerned over who will control the White House and Congress than whether people have jobs and can afford to buy groceries, or whether our military personnel have the training and tools they need to protect our nation.
The bus that is America is being driven toward the cliff, and we can only hope the drivers will realize the coming disaster in time to veer one way or the other before we all go over.
And the saddest part of it all? We gave them the wheel.