Federal legislators running their mouths for the media have made their biggest problem worse. Now that members of Congress are finished being thankful and have to get back to work, they must live up to several weeks of post-election hype about working together, about compromise, about setting aside partisan differences, and about doing the right thing for middle income Americans. Suddenly, they tell us, an old problem Congress has proved unable to deal with for years is going to be addressed. Not only will a deficit spending fix soon be in the works, the urgency to rescue the middle class may turn rabidly partisan federal legislators into America’s nonpartisan benefactors.
The hype over the fiscal cliff (see: Five Bipartisan Fiscal Fixes Congress Can Agree To) and Congress’s new determination to deal with the debt it has racked up are all the makings necessary for a historic government hoax perpetrated on America’s perennial losers, the middle income taxpayers both parties vow to protect. Does anyone believe that the GOP will be able to sacrifice enough tax loopholes to satisfy White House demands for an across the board tax increase on higher incomes, or that the spending cuts traded for what will be a marginal revenue increase will amount to anything?
Enough flag waving. Time for federal legislators to do their job.
There has been a little too much flag waving mixed in with the fiscal cliff hyperbole spewing from Capitol Hill. If Congress was truly concerned about the great country they keep talking about we would not be where we are now. Nevertheless, federal legislators sound ready to set aside their partisan differences and strike a deal for the good of America. Harry Reid seems agreeable to joining hands with his GOP opposition:
It is time for Democrats and Republicans to “go forward now together,” and show the American people that we are equal to the challenges we face.¹
John Boehner says that House Republicans are ready, too:
Mr. President, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives stands ready to work with you to do what’s best for our country. And that’s exactly what I told the president earlier today.
That is the will of the people. And we answer to them.²
At last, the people matter. So great is the urgency to do the right thing that Harry Reid is calling for partisanship to be set aside, paving the way for a truly nonpartisan Christmas gift to middle income Americans:
I have said the work before us in the waning days of this Congress represents a test of our character – a test of our willingness to rise above partisanship for the good of this great nation.³
STOP! Does Reid’s cybersecurity bill come before we fix deficit spending?
No more flag waving. Put Old Glory down. We have already hit a stumbling block on the way to that historic, nonpartisan good deed Congress was ready to decide on.
You might ask yourself what a cybersecurity bill has to do with cutting deficit spending, since Reid’s goal is to save the middle class from financial ruin, not secure their computers:
We have a great deal to accomplish during the next six weeks in order to safeguard our country’s financial health and protect middle-class families.4
The Democratic cybersecurity bill has been languishing in the Senate for quite some time (see: The Real Cyber Threat Is From Politicians and Bureaucrats). What better opportunity to test the partisan waters, find out just how agreeable Republicans are feeling, and deal with a pile of dead polar bears in the sportsman’s bill all at the same time?
If we can work together to address these two measures – the sportsman’s package and the cyber security bill – it will set a tone of cooperation that could characterize the remainder of this Congress, and the next Congress as well.5
Surely this is not a veiled threat, given all the newfound bonhomie on Capitol Hill, but “could characterize” sounds mighty suspicious. Is it possible middle class America might not be saved, after all?
Let’s give legislators the benefit of the doubt for a few more weeks. When they get the itch to bail from Washington for their Christmas break, perhaps they will come up with a deficit spending solution that will draw the middle class back from the edge of the cliff. Last year’s agreement on the payroll tax cut extension happened at the eleventh hour. Who says Congress can’t do its job? They just need to be in a position where they have no choice.