It was as if a door had slowly creaked open and, from somewhere down below in the Capitol crypt, they brought up a tarnished old brass placard from the Cold War era, hung it beneath the big dome — and began doing business in 2012 as a joint committee on Un-American Activities.
With one exception: Instead of investigating perceived un-American activities, the senators and representatives of 2012 began committing them.
Sadly, there just is no other way to describe what the 112th Congress did to the American people throughout 2012. Faced with an economy that was struggling to recover from the Great Recession — the worst recession since the Great Depression — the senators and representatives willfully sent all the wrong signals and did all the wrong things.
First, they decided the only way they could be trusted to do the right thing to curb America’s growing debt was to create, for the first time ever, a “fiscal cliff” — with mandatory budget cuts so massive no Congress would dare let it happen.
Then they spent most of 2012 sending signals to global markets, government agencies, and companies large and small that this Congress just might let it happen. Ideologues insisted they’d rather push America off the cliff rather than compromise one ideological iota.
The result: The uncertainty they created set off a predictable chain-reaction. Washington got so caught up in its campaign name-calling that it set off a chain reaction of budgetary fear, and caution slowed America’s recovery and hurt most those most needing help.
Belatedly, we can connect the econo-dots: Federal departments and agencies, concerned about prospective cuts, froze new hiring. That led federal contractors (huge, middle-sized and small) to freeze hiring. Meanwhile, state and local governments froze hiring. So did their contractors, large and small. All of which explains why the markets alternately trembled and panicked.