If we can believe some of the commentary on the Sunday morning TV talk shows, negotiations to solve the impending fiscal cliff are showing promise. Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham are willing to put tax revenues on the table as part of the package. And some Democrats, such as Sen. Richard Durbin, are beginning to realize that raising tax revenues is more important than increasing tax rates. Going a step farther, Durbin agreed that entitlement reform should be on the table, at least for Medicare, if not Social Security.
It’s encouraging to hear both sides beginning to express some common sense. For the last couple of years President Obama tried to tell us that just raising tax rates on the top 2 percent is the answer to our fiscal woes. On the right, the Tea Party has tried to tell us we don’t need any new taxes; we can solve the whole mess with spending cuts.
If the day existed when either of them was correct, that day is long past. Some of the smarter minds in Washington, like Robert Samuelson, tell us the deficit hole we’re in is now so deep we’ll need both taxes and spending cuts to climb out. I believe them.
But, as the fiscal cliff debate continues, two large cautions: First, not one dime in new taxes should be raised until spending cuts and entitlement reforms are hard and fast. Carved in stone if you will. Too often in the past, taxes have gone up while the spending cuts were pushed somewhere down the road “when we can afford them.” That day just never materializes. Both the tax revenues and spending cuts in any deal have to be solid.
Second, we need transparency. While our Republican and Democratic leaders negotiate they should remember there is another party at the table: the American people who will have to pay for this package. While realists know there will be a lot of discussion occurring in back rooms, what is most to be feared is a deal that is hammered out in private and then dropped on the table at the 11th hour. Vote quickly or we go over the cliff.
The last thing we need is a repeat of the way Obamacare was passed. Who can forget that infamous line from Rep. Nancy Pelosi: “We just have to pass this bill so we can find out what’s in it.” Doing that again would be inexcusable. We deserve better.
The president once said that important bills should be completed early enough so that they could be posted on the web for all to see before any vote is taken. That hasn’t happened before, but this would be a great time to start.
— Terry McCollough