Fiscal cliff looming, no solution in sight


Opinion: Dankbar 12/7

Thaddeus Mast

Republicans and Democrats have been trying to reach a compromise before the country falls off the fiscal cliff on New Year’s Day. While it looks like this will not happen, it would not be the disaster the media claims it would be.

“My guess is we’ll probably fall off, but I don’t think it’s going to be immediately catastrophic. I think if this happens and gets fixed up, maybe after the new Congress is sworn in, then I don’t think the damage will be too great,” said Mack Shelley, professor of political science. “My guess is that we have time to get a relatively quick fix before we hit bottom.”

Who will be taxed at a higher rate is a major arguing point. The latest Democrat offer would have families making over $400,000 per year pay a higher tax rate, up from the original plan of $250,000. This increase loses a couple of billion dollars in tax revenue over ten years.

The latest counter, known as Plan B, did not gain the support of most Republicans, even though Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner suggested it. The plan calls for reduced taxes to everyone making under $1 million a year, with those earning more receiving the increased taxes.

“For anyone who watches real news, they will probably get the impression that the Republicans are playing hard to get and that they are just totally unwilling to compromise on anything. Now some people like that idea, but I don’t think that’s a majority sentiment. So what the Republicans are doing are burying themselves in an increasingly deep hole. They are trying very, very hard to appeal to their core support, these old, angry white men,” said Shelley.

Boehner’s spokesman told CNN the speaker will be “ready to find a solution that can pass both houses of Congress” when he returns to Washington on Thursday.

The spending side of the deal is also under siege from both sides, specifically on budget cuts to defense.

“What the Republicans say they want to do is have all the cuts on the domestic side of the budget and zero cuts to the military,” said Shelley. “On the Democratic side, they are supporting the original deal that was worked out several months ago now which would have 50 percent of the cuts coming out of the defense budget and 50 percent coming out of domestic, which is about $500 billion apiece.”

The argument goes deeper on the domestic side, as the two parties don’t agree whether to include Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to the cuts. “The Democrats and the president are much more inclined to try to keep the budget cuts from impacting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,” Shelley said.

This problem could have an effect outside the country. “It’s going to make the United States look like it just can’t run itself,” Shelley said.