The highly respected, non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) warned yesterday that continued gridlock in Washington will likely lead to the U.S. falling into a recession next year. The economic recovery is already facing some strong headwinds. Austerity economic policy in the European Union has already pushed many European economies into recession or a stagnant economy at best. The E.U. is one of our largest trading partners, their economic downturn hurts our exports. The housing market, one of the largest drivers of our economic engine – especially here in Arizona – has finally begun to recover with increased sales and modest price increases. Falling back into a recession would destroy that recovery.
It is the US Congress that holds the keys to our continued economic recovery. Due to the inaction of this Do Nothing Congress our economy faces a double whammy at the end of this year: expiration of all of the “Bush” Tax Cuts and more than $100 billion in automatic cuts to the Pentagon and domestic agencies. The CBO predicts that with increased taxes leaving consumers with less to spend coupled with $100 billion taken out of the economy will cause the economy to contract by 1.3% in the first half of 2013. Goodbye housing recover, hello more unemployment.
The “Bush” Tax Cuts, which were due to expire at the end of 2010, were extended in their entirety for 2 more years by a large bipartisan majority in Congress at the end of 2010. The Democratic position is that the lower tax rates for the middle class should be extended while those for the wealthy – individuals earning more than $250k annually – aren’t needed, add to the deficit, and should expire at the end of this year. The Republican position is all or nothing – either the lower tax rates for everyone is extended forever, or everyone loses and the cuts expire for everyone, including the middle class just pulling itself out of the worst recession since the Great Depression.
The automatic $100 billion spending cuts were created in last summer’s debt limit increase “agreement”, when many of the same Republicans who voted routinely to increase the US federal debt limit 5 times under President GW Bush, took the country to the brink of default to force Democrats to accept $1 Trillion in spending cuts over the next decade in order to increase the debt limit by the same amount. In order to force the Do Nothing Congress to come agreement over how to implement the spending cuts the agreement was spread the cuts equally between Defense and Domestic spending with a special bipartisan committee set up to agree where to apply the spending cuts. Of course they couldn’t agree on anything, so the cuts are scheduled to apply equally between Defense and Domestic programs. So the Republican response is to say they had their fingers crossed behind their backs when they agreed and voted for the debt limit increase deal, and the Republican House has voted for even steeper spending cuts, but gut domestic programs even more deeply while giving Defense even more funding than the Pentagon Chiefs asked for. That nonsense is going nowhere in the Democratic held Senate. So we’re back to square one, with the US falling back into recession looming on the horizon.
I’m a Democrat, and I believe the Democratic positions of letting the tax cuts for the wealthy expire is more than fair – they don’t need them, the middle class does. And I think spending cuts should be put off until the economy is firing on all cylinders again and the middle class is fully back to work and prospering. But if spending cuts have to happen, let the pain be felt equally by a bloated Defense Department, and to some domestic programs. But the American people voted for a divided Government, so they should get what they voted for. But they deserve a divided Government that works, Congressmen & Senators that recognize that “my way or the highway” is no way to govern, and works together to meet the other side halfway and do what is best for the country, not just their political party.
Southern Arizonans have the chance to make their voice heard and send a message to Congress in the CD8 special election. Ron Barber has made standing up for the middle class a central theme in his campaign, and has vowed to work with both Republicans and Democrats to find common sense solutions for the problems we face. When asked if he could work with Democrats Jesse Kelly responded by saying he hoped there weren’t any Democrats left in Congress when he got there. Jesse Kelly seems to echo the opinion of Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock who said “I’m just against compromise, we need to stop it, it’s weak, it’s foolish, our views are irreconcilable“, and that he thinks “bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view“. No, Mr. Mourdock, no Jesse – bipartisanship should consist of Democrats and Republicans coming to a point of view of doing what’s right for the country, not just your political base. And that’s why we’re going to send Ron Barber to Washington.