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August 30, 2014

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Sun Editorial:

Of budgets and zombies

Congress needs less over-the-top rhetoric, more ‘fiscal cliff’ action

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When the Mayan calendar runs out on Friday, it can only mean one thing: The end of life as we know it.

Gasp!

Perhaps an asteroid will hit the planet (duck and cover!) or the planet will spin off its axis (hold on!), or maybe it will be what the many doomsdayers have been bracing for: the zombie apocalypse.

Or not.

Despite many people’s love for a good ghost (or end-of-the-world) story, by next weekend the Mayan calendar will go the way of Y2K and Nostradamus, and apocalypse lovers and zombie hunters will have to move on to the next big scare. They may not have to go far.

If nothing changes in Washington in the coming days, they’ll have an easy transition to the only impending apocalyptic tale going: the “fiscal cliff”!

Gasp!

You know the story: There’s a standoff of epic proportions in Washington that could end with the country doomed, the economy in ruins and Third World nations looking down on America.

Or not.

That’s not to belittle or minimize the gravity of the situation. There are serious implications in the fiscal cliff that need to be addressed, but let’s not take it to end-of-the-world hyperbole. That has only exacerbated problems in the debate. As a result, neither side has been willing to budge much. In fact, the stakes seem to have increased. For the Democrats, it’s about taking a strong political position to set the tone for President Barack Obama’s second term. For Republicans, the fiscal cliff has been inflated into a matter of life-or-death principles, and they don’t want to cede any ground to a president they have spent four years vociferously opposing.

Not that the country hasn’t seen that act before. You may recall that some conservatives argued that if the president was re-elected, it would bring the end of truth, justice and the American way, not to mention the demise of the economy and spread European socialism across the land. (And perhaps usher in an era of zombies.)

Or, as it turned out, not.

Now, Republicans are accusing Obama of more of the same. Outgoing Sen. Jim DeMint, the Tea Party favorite from South Carolina, complained that the president “is intentionally trying to take us over this cliff” and said the country “is going to collapse.” House Speaker John Boehner posted a picture on his website of Obama surrounded by children with the caption, “Don’t worry, kids — I put it on your tab.” Alongside each child is the per capita share of the federal debt — $51,986.

Nothing subtle about that; Obama wants to harm the country and has doomed the nation’s children to a future of debt.

Gasp!

But the story of a national collapse due to the fiscal cliff is akin to the end-of-the-world myth surrounding the end of the Mayan calendar. The Republican leaders’ doom-and-gloom prophecies might make good sound bites and play to the conservative base, but they’re not accurate and they don’t help solve the problem. The debt has been decades in the making because of actions of both parties, and the cliff isn’t going to cause the nation to collapse.

Republicans shouldn’t duck their own responsibility. Not only have they been big spenders but also the fiscal cliff was triggered after they walked away from budget negotiations last year.

This situation can be solved, but it will take some good-faith negotiations and compromises by both sides. That takes some leadership, and you won’t find that in anyone clinging to a Mayan calendar or proclaiming that the end of the world is here.

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  1. Politicians enjoy bringing the electorate to the brink, so the people will clamor for their action to save us. However, like the boy who cried wolf too many times, when the real cliff comes and the nose dive is imminent, will we believe them?

    CarmineD

  2. Sorry Re, tired propaganda cliche won't work on Sunday morning though I commend you for getting up to get the first word in.

    It is not BO's job to propose spending cuts as he is our [Democratic/progressive/liberal] representative in the dog fight. We propose to work towards a healthier economy by raising taxes on the wealthy back to Clinton era rates [not even as high as Reagan-era rates], establishing a minimum tax for corporations like GE which has not paid Federal taxes in years, reducing or eliminating egregious loopholes, stimulus spending in key area [Kenseyan spending such as used by Reagan, Nixon, the Bushes,
    etc.,] and also discussing reductions in services and funding with Republicans. I know you have a short memory, but it was only 6 months ago that your candidate Paul Ryan had a secret [because he never told anyone the details] plan to balance the budget and eliminate the debt. Your candidates lost....100 plus electoral votes, 3 million plus votes...as the American people rejected your bait and switch three card monte flim flam men. Now stop sniveling and bring your proposals to the table. Tell Boehner, Ryan, Cantor and Tea wackos to take off their training diapers and join the real world.

  3. Ref and Company: Twas the 70's when ALL government (local, state and federal) was 20% of GNP. We've gradually "accepted" that government will step in and do everything we think should be done--herein lies the problem. If it's something we think should be done, do it. Volunteer. Donate. Leave your estate to the things that should be done. If others agree with you, the funding will be there.

  4. RefNV (Re Freeman): You say "During his two terms in office, Clinton reduced spending as a share of gross domestic product from 21% in fiscal year 1994 to 18.2% of GDP in fiscal year 2001."

    He certainly did. And it took G.W. Bush barely a year to fix THAT problem with a tax cut for his wealthy chums and two wars.

  5. RefNV (Re Freeman): You state "The top 10% of wage earners pay 71% of all federal income taxes." Etc.

    I'm not up to banging my head against that wall yet again. . .

  6. Maybe they are all waiting to see if they are here on Saturday before they get responsible.

  7. There is no hope. The only question is when America will collapse. Congress is mired in partisan politics and the president is clueless.

    Our kids and grandkids will be indentured servants to pay for what our government has wasted.

  8. Both sides play a game of brinksmanship, and usually the Dems cave. I hope not this time. To balance the budget we need more revenue. I see very little talk about changing the carried interest and Capital gains rate. These need to be in the debate. Yes, we also need to reduce spending. But the Dems and Obama need to not give in to Republican pressure. Why do they start negotiations from where they want them to end up?