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Charles Vignola: Republicans and diving off the fiscal cliff

Posted: November 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: November 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Now that the 2012 election is over, the biggest challenge facing America is the upcoming “fiscal cliff.” What this means is that the U.S. is facing three huge fiscal crises before the end of this year: the dreaded sequestration, the need to raise the debt ceiling, and the expiring of the Bush tax cuts.

You may have heard the term “sequestration” but aren’t quite sure what it refers to.

Well, back in the summer of 2011, the debt ceiling needed to be raised and the Republicans decided to use this as a political football to extort drastic spending cuts they would never get through legitimate negotiation.

Since the Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling unless each new dollar corresponded with a dollar in spending cuts, a bipartisan “supercommittee” was created to negotiate a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases that would shrink government spending by the same amount.

If they couldn’t make a deal, then trillions in mandatory spending cuts would hit Medicare, the defense budget and countless programs that help children, the elderly and the poor.

When the Republicans rejected the Simpson-Bowles’ recommendation of a balanced approach to deficit reduction that included tax increases on upper-income earners, the supercommittee failed and the time bomb that Republicans set into motion by playing politics with the debtceiling was suddenly triggered. And that, in a nutshell, is sequestration.

Additionally, the Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire on Dec. 31, meaning that if a deal isn’t reached by then, everyone in America faces higher taxes come January.

The Bush tax cuts were originally set to expire December 2010, but the Republicans refused to extend unemployment insurance to millions of jobless Americans at Christmas unless the Bush tax cuts were extended for millionaires and billionaires.

So here we are after the election, facing a perfect storm of fiscal challenges that could result in a 9.1 percent unemployment rate and a devastating double-dip recession if a deal is not reached before the holidays.

And what’s the reaction of House Majority Leader John Boehner and the Tea Party Caucus of House Republicans, whose intransigence led to this crisis in the first place?

They still refuse to consider any tax increases on Donald Trump or the Koch brothers, insisting that it will kill job growth – this despite the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service’s exhaustive study that reveals upper income tax cuts do absolutely nothing to increase job growth.

Unfortunately for congressional Republicans, the public has spoken, giving President Obama an electoral mandate beyond anything George W. Bush ever achieved.

Voters overwhelmingly agreed with Obama’s reasoning that the rich need to pay a little more to help balance the budget, pay down the deficit and get America’s fiscal house in order for generations to come.

Americans of all political stripes reacted positively to President Obama working alongside New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during recovery efforts for Hurricane Sandy, and they’re hungry to see such bipartisanship in Washington as we work on our country’s fiscal recovery.

Boehner and his colleagues have a tremendous opportunity to heal old wounds, come together with the Democrats and compromise in a bipartisan fashion that could restore our faith in government, get the country’s finances back on track and result in a more robust economy for everyone. Or they could pledge allegiance to Grover Norquist, watch the country go over the fiscal cliff and pray they pay no political price in the 2014 midterm elections. The choice is theirs.

Charles Vignola is a Fair Oaks Ranch resident.


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