By Ryan Henson
So we’re in a recession. Unemployment is at a 30 year high and the economy is barely creating jobs, but things aren’t as bad as they could be, not nearly. This sluggish, timid, and precarious recovery we find ourselves entering is still a recovery. Things are getting better, if only by millimeters. Still, things weren’t good enough to prevent a G.O.P takeover of the House of Representatives from a beleaguered and unanimated democratic party in November. So now a countdown has begun in the mind of every democrat in Washington: A countdown to Jan. 1 when the red tide sweeps into the U.S congress’ larger chamber and the party of the president loses its ability to effectively legislate. That is, if they haven’t lost it already.
The pressure is on to pass important legislation that the democrats have failed to so far. This includes perhaps the most controversial legislative decision of the decade. The Bush tax cuts are set to expire with the slow descent of the Time Square ball and the fireworks of the New Year. How, or even if, the government should tax us has been a source of deep and ferocious division for Americans ever since, well forever. Bush’s tax cuts, which were lauded by our grammatically challenged, rancher of a president, was key for job growth. They haven’t produced anywhere near the kind of job numbers promised. Job growth has stagnated for the past decade while the prime beneficiaries of the tax cuts, the top two percent of income earners in America, have broken away wildly from the pack.
Now the time has finally come to decide whether the economically disastrous cuts will continue for yet another two years. And the answer, as of this moment, is that they will. Yes, despite campaign promises from President Obama promising to bring an end to the unfairly light burdening of those with the greatest ability to bear the weight, the White House has yielded to what is essentially legislative bullying. Obama and his party have long talked about tailoring the cuts to preserve the relief provided for the middle and lower class, 98 percent of Americans, while removing the economically irresponsible and deficit expanding cuts for a tiny, wealthy segment of the population. This was the plan, and it was a good one.
However, when finally confronted with a vote, the Republicans, seized with the intoxicating scent of the first of January’s power switch, revealed themselves as the most sinister of political animals. The Republicans wanted all or nothing. Either extend the entirety of the tax cuts for another two years or risk the possibility of a filibuster suffocating any breath of a vote and have all of the tax cuts expire. This means that those who need the cuts desperately would see their taxes rise immediately and perhaps devastatingly for the fragile economy. Such a large increase in taxes could swiftly stamp out any promising glow of embers that may be slowly spreading in the furnace of the economy. This could mean a double dip recession, where after a brief climb, the economy plunges into even deeper levels of despair perhaps even depression.
Faced with this proposition Obama yielded. A “compromise” was struck and the tax cuts are blessed with continued existence. With shouts to balance the budget and reduce the deficit, this decision seems particularly hypocritical. Still experts seem to agree that the plan will be good for short-term job creation, which makes sense. Still the danger is that when the same question of continuation rears its ugly head in two years, these temporary cuts could become a permanent fiscal fixture. In the long term that is a deal we can neither afford nor permit.