“Compromise is the lack of leadership.” Like me, you might have heard that quote in some form or another over the years without knowing exactly to whom to attribute it. On the reverse side is another quote I detest with almost all of my being, “Politics is the art of compromise.” And the putting of these two axioms together gets the United States, its government and its citizens to where they all are today, in a giant fiscal mess.
As has become all too apparent to me, the folks in Washington, D.C. have abandoned any perception of what is right and wrong and in serving only one, very exclusive constituency: themselves. Just look at the compromise on extending the Bush tax cuts — while trying to rename them the Obama tax cuts for the middle class —while extending unemployment benefits beyond the already too long 99 weeks.
This whole things stinks so much to high heaven I don’t know if I can wallow in the stench long enough to try to express my disgust about another piece of worthless legislation that this time allows for holiday photo ops and backslaps from the sextant-less captain and crew manning the rudderless ship known as our federal government. Can the edge of the flat earth come soon enough to send every last one of these dolts to Davy Jones’ locker?
First, let’s have a look at the Republicans. We’re barely removed from the overwhelming vote in November that should have instilled in their heads that business as usual will no longer be accepted. So what’s the first thing the Republican leadership does? It accepts an invite from the president, who up until November explained his entire governing style in two words: “I won.” With this fresh in their minds, once again, the Charlie Brown Republicans try to kick Democrat Lucy’s football.
And what did the Republicans gain? They will tell you they got the Bush tax cuts — actually our effective tax rate for the past eight years — extended. How do you claim victory by achieving the status quo? If the Democrats really wanted to let the tax cuts expire at the end of the year, the Republicans should have forced their hand and made them do it. That inaction would have at least made the Democrats show their true “never-met-a-tax- they-didn’t-like” colors show. As if the Republicans didn’t lose enough face on the tax rates alone, they also compromised on unemployment benefits, allowing them to be extended an additional 13 months. After all, being fiscally responsible isn’t as important for Republicans in Washington as is not being seen as Scrooge in December.
As for the Democrats, they were so entrenched to fight against the “tax cuts for the rich” they caved in the first moment they had the chance, once again showing the jelly out of which their spines are made. They had to compromise simply because they’ve never been able to define who is rich, who deserves to keep more of the money they earn because they spend it the right way and, yet, they have not paid more than what the tax laws ask for to prove their patriotism. They have no reason to not allow the rates to stay as they are.
On unemployment, however, the Democrats have an equation only God might be able to understand. Democrats have been going around saying that unemployment benefits — just like the failed the stimulus package — actually stimulate the economy. Well, if that’s the case, let’s put everyone on unemployment benefits and partner these benefits with more stimulus packages so we’re all living on easy street. I mean, if spending $3.5 trillion that our country doesn’t have is good, would $10 trillion in spending of money we don’t have be the bee’s knees?
No matter what compromise the politicians tell us is in the best interest of the country, they avoid the one thing that can’t be compromised on that would benefit the country the most: actually cutting spending.
You see, the unemployment extension, while it sounds nice, is mainly an unfunded mandate. Business owners will see this when they see the state unemployment rate they pay increase substantially, even if they’ve never laid anyone off. Consumers should be aware because prices naturally will rise to cover this cost. It’s a simple equation when the government increases unemployment benefits by over 50 percent. Add to this the fact that unemployment is continuing to go up — in spite of the rigged numbers we see — and that too many states are borrowing money to pay these benefits from the federal government and you can see this policy is a road to disaster.
So once again, the 550 or so individuals in D.C. have decided not what is best for their constituencies, but what is best for their favorite constituents: themselves. Now the race is on to see who gets to be the first to make the announcement on another great compromise to bring us back from the brink, save our republic and make this into some kind of stimulus. This compromise would indeed stimulate something, but you need to shovel it on some seeds.
Craig Hall is owner and publisher of the Business Times. Reach him at 424-5133 or firstname.lastname@example.org.