Fiscal cliff agreement…disappointing

I grew up a Reagan Republican. I believe in fiscal conservatism, a balanced budget, and limited government. At one time, I was a coordinating member of the Concord Coalition to reduce our federal debt. I also believe in the Bill of Rights, economic freedom, and moral tolerance. So during the GW Bush years, I lost faith with the party of my youth as I saw huge contradictions in what my party said it was about, and how it acted. Irresponsible tax cuts when facing huge deficits caused by vain, misguided war mongering. Patriot Act laws that cast shame on all the moral principles this country ever said it stood for. Individual privacies…gone. Torture of prisoners. Detention without formal arrest or cause. Fascism started with far less ammunition.

While I’ve never endorsed the Democratic party, I’ve certainly voted for them in the last several elections to try and bring balance back to our country. The social liberal part of my character also embraces the values of providing for the less fortunate, for universal health care, and equity for all regardless of sex, race, religion, or sexual identity, qualities I typically find lacking in Republican talking points.

In the aftermath of the fiscal cliff agreement, I expected to be happy with the outcome. Increased taxes on the wealthy appeals to the social equity vision, but unfortunately, there is nothing, so far, to address the spending side of the equation. It’s not enough to simply increase revenues. If there’s no discipline to also restrain and cutback on spending, taxes will simply be a further drain on long-term economic activity.

And for those clapping your hands that you finally socked-it-to-the-wealthy, you didn’t get away without collateral damage. Neither party was willing to use up negotiating chips defending the expiration of the payroll tax cut, which means you got a 2% tax increase as well. Worse than that, businesses will be encouraged to continue and accelerate plans they’ve been executing for years…to reduce payrolls and use independent contractors that don’t cost them payroll taxes or healthcare benefits. See Igor Greenwald’s Forbes article for more details.

Nobody wants higher taxes for themself. We would only do so to support a higher purpose. So what is the higher purpose now? To pay for our past sins of spending irresponsibly? And will we learn from that, or will we continue to spend recklessly making not only this rise in taxes permanent, but insure a future tax raise as well. Obviously, the cycle can’t continue indefinitely as economic growth disappears.

So we have made one hard choice…seeing the need to raise revenues, we have raised taxes. Now we MUST finish the job and address the spending side of the equation, or it’s cutting off our nose to spite our face. I encourage everyone, elected officials and those who influence them, to keep working until we have equal results on spending.