EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

January 8, 2013

Column: Fiscal cliff leaves GOP dazed, confused and fractured

The “fiscal cliff” fiasco has left the Grand Old Party in tatters. Dazed, confused and fractured, Republican legislators very publicly have violated some of their most unshakable principles in exchange for a tiny sack of broken marbles. Meanwhile, the party’s wobbly congressional leadership makes the Maginot Line look like the Great Wall of China.

With the admirable exceptions of Iowa’s Charles Grassley, Utah’s Mike Lee, Kentucky’s Rand Paul, Florida’s Marco Rubio and Alabama’s Richard Shelby, GOP senators swallowed a cartoonishly inadequate deal. Conservatives were saddened when our sainted Ronald Reagan, mired in the 1982 recession, traded $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in higher taxes. In 1990, we were outraged when we read Daddy Bush’s lips as he endorsed $2 in budget cuts for each $1 in tax increases. Of course, those spending cuts evaporated, since Democrats always whine loudly enough to scare away the piper before he can get paid.

But those dark days are like a rainbow-sized Laffer Curve compared to the “bargain” that passed Congress on New Year’s Day: This legislation cuts spending by $1 for every $41 in higher taxes. Yup: $1-to-$41. And that $1 likely won’t get cut.

Not even joints get rolled as easily as Republicans.

This legislation boosts net spending by $330 billion and increases the national debt by $3.9 trillion through 2022. This is how Washington defines “bipartisan debt reduction.”

This law also contains $7 million in special tax favors for electric scooters, $59 million for biofuel-algae growers, $78 million for NASCAR, $222 million for Puerto Rican rum producers, and $248 million for the motion-picture industry. Conversely, it offers no escape from the brand new 2.3 percent “Obamacare” tax that already is killing jobs and innovation in the life-saving medical device industry.

Republicans reply that they caved today to fight another day. The looming debt-ceiling battle supposedly will find them as intrepid as a Marine battalion, itching to slash spending and re-limit government. Believe it when you see it. For now, free-marketeers would be lucky if Republicans donned the blue helmets of United Nations peacekeepers.

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