Sandra and I have been laid up for the past few days, coughing and sneezing and shivering … I’m sure you’ve been there and can sympathize. But today I was able to come up for air and look around. And it seems the world did OK without my watchful eye, after all.
For example, the U.S. plunged over the dreaded fiscal cliff without spraining an ankle.
True, the compromise solution that averted the catastrophe was a sorry patchwork, raising taxes only on the very rich and not the oh-quite-rich. And, true, it was loaded with goodies for the corporate elite and filthy-rich movie producers, and included tax breaks for such essential (?) services as NASCAR race tracks. But I heartily approve of the tax break for electric motorcycles (photo above, left).
And at least it saved the moderately poor and the quite poor from a crushing tax hike. And – so far – it has saved the very poor from draconian cuts in their meager benefits.
Among the dodged bullets were proposed cuts in benefits for Social Security recipients and disabled veterans. Still, working Americans did not get an extension of the payroll tax cut, which is the most painful bite the federal government takes out of most paychecks. The 2 percent difference could mean as much as $200 more a month to working stiffs making the taxable maximum of $113, 700 a year. (The money from the payroll tax is supposed to go toward the Social Security fund but Uncle Sam doesn’t hesitate to dip into it when he feels it’s necessary.)
And the poor who are also old – or aging – are not yet safe. As Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders reminds us:
President Obama’s initial proposal called for $1.6 trillion in new revenue. The bill that passed only brought in $620 billion – 40 percent of what the president originally requested. This not only means that no progress was made on deficit reduction, but that the Republicans (and some Democrats) will be increasingly aggressive about wanting to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans’ programs and other vitally important programs for working families.
What’s encouraging, though, is that Congress actually passed something.
The Mad Hatter types who carry the Tea Party’s banner in Congress (illustration above, right) failed to block the compromise reached in the Senate, possibly setting a precedent for governing the country.
The agreement brokered by Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was later signed off on by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid during calls with President Barack Obama – and was accepted by the Senate in an 89 to 8 vote.
In the House, Speaker John Boehner was able to get only 85 Republican votes for the bill. It was the Democrats who got it passed – by 257 to 167.
I am left wondering if this could be a template for the next couple of years, with the few sane Republicans joining the more moderate Democrats to find some kind of almost-common ground.
If that’s rue, America will stagger forward like a contestant in a three-legged race – or like a burlap sack filled with crabs – lunging hither and thither but pressing on regardless.
Mercifully, there are congressional elections in 2014, and America will then be able to shake its government free of the Tea Party pests afflicting it.