NORMAN — There are two obvious possibilities regarding Washington’s struggle with the fiscal cliff.
First, Republicans and Democrats could engage in tough negotiations that reach a compromise to spread some very real pain.
Second, efforts to negotiate a fiscal deal between the two parties collapse, resulting in harsh budget cuts and tax increases across the board. Many economists say the impact of this drastic move would force the nation’s economy back into recession.
Neither of these options is the sort of thing a politician typically wants to be associated with. That’s why we’re worried about a third alternative, one that could look increasingly attractive to the nation’s lawmakers as they near that fiscal cliff.
We refer to a temporary extension of existing taxation and spending figures. It’s a variation of what got America into this position in the first place.
The fiscal cliff that everyone’s talking about is the penalty placed on the nation after last year’s budget negotiations failed. Congress and President Obama agreed to create the cliff. The intent was to present an alternative so ugly and unpopular that politicians would be forced to compromise.
Unfortunately, that idea didn’t work very well. Amid election-year posturing, the two parties failed to resolve their differences. And now the nation is dealing with the cliff.
We hear lots of accusations and see lots of finger pointing from Washington as Republicans and Democrats argue the other side is taking an extreme position and unwilling to budge. Some of this undoubtedly is the sort of maneuvering the parties typically engage in ahead of any negotiated agreement.
In fact, plenty of political observers believe what’s happening now is merely for show. Ultimately, a deal will be struck to avoid the fiscal cliff.
We want to see Washington reach that deal — assuming it’s one that offers real restructuring in terms of spending cuts and tax reform. The way we see it, neither of the plans being pushed by Republicans and Democrats is sufficient on its own.
On the other hand, we don’t want an agreement that does nothing more than extend the status quo. The fiscal cliff may be a clumsy mechanism, but its harsh consequences may be the only thing that politicians actually understand.
If Republicans and Democrats can’t reach a meaningful and practical deficit reduction plan, then they should allow the nation to go over that fiscal cliff. We think this outcome would force voters to make some much-needed wholesale changes in Washington.
— New Castle, Pa., News