Paul Adair is a 21-year Germantown resident, retired scientist, writer, and lecturer.
Last night, the House of Representatives voted on a compromise reached in the Senate to avoid sending the economy off the “fiscal cliff”. The bill passed the House by a bipartisan 257-167 margin after passing the Senate by an overwhelming 89- 8. This was a temporary win for common sense. Failure to pass this bill would have had a devastating impact on our still-recovering economy. At the end of 2012, the Bush tax cuts were slated to end on everyone. That is, everyone's taxes went up at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve. Passage of this bill revoked the tax increase for every taxpayer for their first $400,000 of annual income ($450,000 for married joint filers). A vote against the bill was a vote to raise taxes for every taxpayer in the country.
In the Senate, Ron Johnson (R-WI) voted for the bill, as did outgoing Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI). In the House, Republican Wisconsin Congressmen Paul Ryan and Reid Ribble voted for it, along with Speaker of the House John Boehner. These politicians did what was best for their country and for the prosperity of us all.
Who voted against this bill? Who voted to raise taxes on each and every taxpayer? Your own Representative, Jim Sensenbrenner. Why does Sensenbrenner want your taxes to increase? Why does he want to derail the fragile economic recovery? Has 69-year old Sensenbrenner lost touch with his constituents? With reality? After all, he has been in Washington since 1978, when Jimmy Carter was president. When Space Invaders was the top video game and Grease was the number one movie. He has been in Washington longer than a large fraction of his constituents have been alive.
The bill also put-off for two months the impact of the Sequester, previously agreed to under the Budget Control Act of 2011. The Sequester provides that if Congress failed to act on budget cut targets before January 3, 2013, that large and equal across the board cuts would be made in defense and domestic spending. Neither the Republican nor the Democratic leadership wanted the Sequester to occur. The process essentially takes a dull ax to the Federal budget when a surgical scalpel is required. The mindless and draconian self-inflicted cuts dictated by the Sequester would push us into another recession.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that activation of the the Sequester would cause GDP to contract by 0.5% and unacceptably increase unemployment. We have seen this kind of sudden self-imposed austerity devastate the economies of Europe. Of course, a new economic contraction would also have a huge impact on the markets and your own IRA and 401K retirement plans. A much more sensible approach is to make targeted cuts where we can and where they will have minimal economic impact.
This should have been done earlier. Our politicians were typically remiss in not dealing with the cuts already. However, the bill that passed Congress last night gives our elected officials a two month breathing space to initiate reasoned and rational cuts. One must ask why Jim Sensenbrenner voted against this short two month extension. Why he would be willing to harm the US economy in the cause of some sort of political gamesmanship?
There was no Plan B. If the bill had failed, it would have been almost impossible to get another agreement that could pass the Democratic Senate and the Republican House. The financial markets would have been in freefall. The bond ratings agencies would have again lowered US credit ratings, costing us much more in interest expenses. Consumers would have pulled back spending, driving the economy into the ditch.
Why did Jim Sensenbrenner try to make a hostage of American prosperity? Will this be his approach to upcoming negotiations on the Debt Ceiling and Sequester? What possible motivation does our Representative-for-Life in Washington have for pulling money out of your pockets in taxes, increasing your job insecurity, and slashing the value of your 401K? Is he really representing you and your interests?