Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Bloomberg Businessweek on the “mooncalf monster-child”…

BloombergBusinessWeek-20130107The Fiscal Cliff “negotiations”, if that’s what one can call them, have been the most mind-numbing of political theatrics in a country known for circus-like political productions. They have been so dull, in fact, that this politics and news junkie switched off. From the outset, it’s been obvious that Congressional posturing has been turned up to 11 (on both sides of the aisle, but mostly, it has to be said, from the Republican side). The result has been less than impressive, and far less than a recently-victorious president should have been able to achieve.

It’s been a while since I last read Businessweek, but I thought they had some decent coverage of the new deal, which they say has been the start of a “years-long cycle of pettiness, delay, and zero-sum gamesmanship”.

“the fiscal cliff was the mooncalf monster-child of Congress itself. The automatic spending cuts (“sequester”) were invented by an act of Congress a mere 17 months ago after the 2011 debt ceiling showdown. To praise this new deal as an accomplishment is to praise an arsonist for extinguishing his own fire.”

Peter Coy’s article was particularly interesting, I thought. The author attempts to measure the ridicule most people seem to exhibit for Congressional “leaders”.

“You could argue it’s a crisis of leadership—that our elected representatives are examples of our worst, most partisan selves. That seems unlikely.”

Really? All evidence to the contrary, I would say that Coy is being over-generous here. There are, no doubt, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who are able, sensible and competent government representatives. However, given the rhetoric and actions of many members of the upper and lower chambers, it actually seems likely that representatives have been giving in to their “worst, partisan selves”. Take Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as an example, and the whiplash he gave Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo) when he voted against his own bill on the filibuster, or any number of examples from President Obama’s first term which saw Republicans voting against their own proposals (past and present) when they discovered that the President and Democrats were willing to sign on.

“The deal that Congress produced… subtracts stimulus in the short term while worsening the long-term budget picture. George W. Bush’s tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 took a huge bite out of the government’s revenue, but at least they had expiration dates. In contrast, the tax cuts in the budget deal that passed in the Senate are permanent. Theoretically, they can be ended by a future Congress. Politically, though, it’s much harder to raise taxes than to allow cuts to expire.”

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