A Curious Bystander- The Fiscal Cliff

Megan Chrisler

Finally, a deal has been reached concerning the fiscal cliff: Congress has decided that the wealthy are now going to be taxed, and across-the-board taxes for the lower classes have been avoided.

In a CNN article, published the day the deal was reached, Republican House Representative Tom Cole from Oklahoma was quoted as saying “[…] let’s take the Senate deal, fight another day.”

“This is the best we can do given the Senate and the White House sentiment at this point in time, and it is at least a partial victory for the American people,” Representative Nan Hayworth from New York said. “I’ll take that at this point.”

Where was this compromise a year ago?

It’s not quite over yet, however.  At the time of this writing, President Obama has been debating the issue of the debt ceiling with Congress.  Republicans might be willing to let Obama borrow more money, but only if spending cuts are tied in.  Obama says he will not allow this because raising the debt ceiling has nothing to do with potential spending, and everything to do with paying the bills.

Maybe I spoke too soon about compromise.

That is not to say that Obama is against spending cuts altogether. His presidential campaign included deficit reduction (and politicians are bound to their campaign promises, right?), and the $4 trillion target would stabilize the debt for the next decade.

However, in a Huffington Post article, Richard Kogan, part of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities and a liberal think tank, was referenced in his recently-published essay as saying that although it would work, there will still need to be spending cuts for after the ten years are up—mainly focusing on health care and welfare programs.

Will it come down to cutting entitlement programs?  It sure wouldn’t help the political gap if it did (those 47 percent of lazy poor people would be so mad, wouldn’t they?).  The Constitution says that Congress shall “provide for the […] general welfare of the United States,” but something must be done, and that statement is pretty vague.  As for health care, reforms do need to be made—but America can’t agree on exactly what reformations should be made, making that situation almost as impossible to solve as today’s economy.  Some say government is growing too big, but it looks more like the gap inside government is the source of swelling.

Instead of asking which side is right, however, perhaps we should be asking ourselves whether this might become the new norm.  Is it possible to get prices back down to where they were in the ‘80s?  Is government “too big to fail”?  Is the economic downturn more like a cold than a cancer, and in reality everything’s going to be just fine?  Will Americans ever agree either way?

Probably not in the near future.  But let’s get back to the main topic: what is so bad about talking about spending cuts while raising the amount of money borrowed, especially if the president says he’ll do it anyway?  And if the cuts must be in welfare programs, is economic necessity more important than economic fairness?  Is there a “right” side to any of this?

It will be questions like these that the population of Millikin campus might have to deal with in their lives.  We did not create it, but we will be asked to solve it.  And when that time comes, will we be able to make a deal?