EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


January 6, 2013

Column: Cliff avoided but outlook still grim on Capitol Hill

“... And I’ll be with you when the deal goes down.”

— Bob Dylan

Well, the deal went down. Not with the finality of the poet’s words, but long enough for Americans to take a short gulp of breath before facing the threat of an even worse calamity than the possibility of falling into the economic abyss just avoided.

A couple of short months from now the debt ceiling will have to be raised or once again the government will have to deal with another crisis — defaulting on its financial obligations and shutting down. The president wanted to have that remedied in the compromise that saved most of us from a major tax increase and draconian cutbacks in spending. But it wasn’t to be. Nor did the small solution adopted in the last hours of the year — as is the legislature’s historic pattern — include much debt reduction or entitlement reform needed to solve a barge load of other fiscal problems that will keep us sweating throughout 2013 at least.

What Vice President Joe Biden was able to work out with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and then the GOP-controlled House was a temporary solution to our financial woes. No one down the avenue or up on Capitol Hill is satisfied — not the liberals, not the conservatives and certainly not the president.

There is a ray of sunshine in all this. Something finally passed with a bipartisan vote. Does that portend for better things to come after four years of bickering and incivility? Probably not. However there are straws of hope to grasp, including the fact that for the first time in two decades Republicans supported a tax increase.

While the new levy on the wealthy is far less than Barack Obama sought —about half actually —it is something. Instead of getting hit squarely between the eyes if your adjusted gross income is $250,000 or above, you can now earn $450,000 before your rate goes up. That will produce new revenue way short of Obama’s proposed $1.4 trillion.

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