Friday, December 28, 2012

Fiscal Cliff a Political Creation of GOP

The canard in D.C. plays on.  Members of the Senate are back in session and the House has been called back for Sunday.  Jonathan Weisman reports that there is both hope and pessimism that a deal can be struck: hope from Mitch McConnell that talks are finally percolating; gloom from Harry Reid that procedurally there is not enough time on the clock to finalize any legislation before the end of the year.

Yes, year's end.  Thank goodness.  Today is my last working day of 2012.  And I am relieved.  Jennifer Steinhauer has an entertaining story about the prickly and despondent senators called away from holiday back to the Capitol; it's rich with atmospheric detail, which is unusual for political correspondence.  This is the delightful second-to-last paragraph:
The House and Senate have held numerous pro forma sessions during the week between Christmas and New Year over the years, and in 1995 during a major budget battle. But the last time they held roll call votes that week, before Thursday, was during the second session of the 91st Congress, in 1970, amid a large spending fight and a filibuster over financing for a supersonic transport plane.
For some reason I am fascinated by a SST filibuster in the final days of 1970. Pat and Dick in the White House. The Weather Underground on the run.

The mirage of a deal taking shape, according to Weisman, seeks to "avert most of the tax increases on Jan. 1, to prevent a sudden cut in payments to medical providers treating Medicare patients and to extend expiring unemployment benefits."

Nelson Schwartz has a story about the economic impact of the fiscal cliff negotiations.  Consumer confidence took a big hit in the first part of the month; it's being compared to the debt ceiling debacle from the summer of 2011:
Several economists said the current situation recalls the standoff over raising the federal debt ceiling in the summer of 2011. In that case, too, consumer confidence eroded as both sides in Washington refused to blink until the last moment, but experts added the consequences were likely to be longer-lasting this time because the changes in tax policy affect individuals directly.
We must remember, as housing prices finally start to recover and unemployment continues its incremental decline, that the fiscal cliff is a political creation of the Republican Party. The GOP wants to alter fundamentally popular government programs, social democratic programs, like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  Republicans are willing to risk a crisis to achieve this goal.

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