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As the clock stuck midnight Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve revelers across the world celebrated the end of a year and the beginning of another. The iconic ball descended in New York City to the delight of millions in attendance and millions more watching at home.
In our nation’s capitol, the Senate was attempting to keep a different type of ball from dropping, one that promised to crush an already fragile economy.
Finally, after much drama, the Senate passed late Monday and the House of Representatives approved on New Year’s Day legislation to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” a bitter combination of tax increases and deep cuts to core government programs.
Unfortunately, this “standing on the precipice” brinksmanship has come to define our government. And although the deal averts the fiscal cliff for now, the issue will come up again in another two months.
It’s as though legislation is being drafted for TV ratings, not for the good of the American people. The crafters of “reality” programming couldn’t come up with a better scenario.
According to the Washington Post, the deal will generate approximately $600 billion of new revenue by raising the top tax rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent on income over $450,000 for married couples and $400,000 for single people. It also protects more than 100 million families earning less than $250,000 a year from the significant income tax increases that would have come along with the fiscal cliff. The payroll tax cut, however, will expire, so money’s still coming out of our pockets.
While the legislation keeps the bottom from falling out, this isn’t a victory for anyone. This is the kind of muddled, watered down legislation that we get from a bitterly divided government. They had months to prepare legislation that could have addressed the issue in a meaningful way. They didn’t. What we have is a two-month can-kick.
The final vote in the House was 257 to 167. A total of 151 Republicans, including Eric Cantor, voted against the measure. In the Senate, only eight legislators voted against the package.
While we are grateful that our country didn’t plunge into financial ruin, it is a shame that a deal where nobody gets what they want is the only bipartisan agreement that can occur in Congress.