, Salem, MA


December 13, 2012

Santa meets the fiscal cliff


I’ve always preferred the version, “Peace on Earth to men of good will.” Let’s take a look at the ongoing negotiations in Washington about the “fiscal cliff”: any men of good will participating?

I would say yes, and ye will know them by these actions: They will stand firm on basic constitutional economic principles, and let the political chips fall where they may. In the end, voters will wake up and “get it,” or they won’t.

George Will postulated Sunday on “This Week” that we do have consensus in this country, that “we should have an ever-more-generous welfare state and not pay for it.” Well, dramatic as that sounds, what else explains our $16-plus trillion in national debt? Maybe Santa Claus wasn’t the best tradition on which to raise our children.

The $16 trillion will soon be $20 trillion if Obama gets his new spending. During the election, he argued for “a balanced approach” of new revenues and spending cuts; now he just wants more money. He seems to be refusing to negotiate in good faith, preferring to get the automatic tax hikes and defense spending cuts that happen automatically in January.

Incredibly, he wants Congress to give him the power to extend the debt ceiling on his own.

Neither political party is proposing many specific spending cuts. The reason for this is that suggested cuts will be demagogued by partisans from the other party. The attack ad with Paul Ryan pushing Granny over the cliff because he suggested Medicare reform was matched by Republicans who attacked Obamacare for its similar Medicare cuts.

Here is what I would do with the “fiscal cliff.” I’d note that the “Bush tax cuts” were originally passed as “temporary” — a word that annoys taxpayer activists when it’s applied to tax increases, like our 1989 state income tax rate hike that’s almost 24 years old. If the tax cuts expire, that’s just what was originally intended; so it’s not “new taxes” now. I’d earmark the entire amount for paying down the national debt, except for the payroll tax, which I’d use as intended when it was created.

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