Our production deadlines have me drafting this column prior to the outcome of the 2012 elections. Regardless of how the races turn out, the promises made, the twisting of the facts, the compelling arguments, the money spent and how you chose to vote, one thing is for sure it’s clear we’ve got much to do in the way of the people’s business and no time to waste rolling up our sleeves getting down to work.
Top on the list, regardless of the outcome of the Presidential election, it appears that 163 million American workers can expect a big increase in the taxes taken out of their paychecks come January. The temporary reduction in Social Security payroll taxes is due to expire at the end of 2012. Neither the Obama nor the Romney camps proposed an extension, both steering clear of any blame for increased taxes come 2013. Neither party feels the payroll tax holiday, put in place two years ago that was intended to be a temporary shot in the arm for the economy, has done much to stimulate the sluggish economy.
Providing cover for the Social Security reduction is the bigger question surrounding the future of the Bush-Era tax cuts which also expire at the end of 2012. Couple that with the pending sequestration due to take effect in 2013 and it’s clear that the government can no longer sugar coat the medicine. We must face and accept the reality of our financial crisis very soon. At the end of the day it’s time to suck it up and deal with these issues. On the fairy tale campaign trail politicians can always find creative ways to avoid answering the tough issues, and twist the truth as to who to blame, but once the election dust settles those left standing really should have no choice but to address these issues.
The retiring Social Security Payroll Holiday will affect every American worker at the rate of 2 percent of their wages while having the same impact on their employer. Congress has generously reimbursed Social Security for the lost revenue estimated to be over $215 billion the past two years. Of course, we all know that the country hasn’t had a budget for the last three years so that generous reimbursement has essentially been going on our credit card, increasing the country’s debt crisis.
The debt crisis leads us to the sequestration. Since Congress was unable to work out any form of compromise when the nation reached its most recent and yet another debt ceiling, sequestration was proposed by the Obama negotiating team in an effort to force Republican Congressional members into accepting tax increases or face deep cuts to our military. The Republicans called the bet put in place by the Democrats nearly certain they would not allow deep cuts to social programs no more than they would allow the cuts to the military programs. Sadly when both sides play the game of chicken knowing neither wants the alternative but neither side wants to be the first to blink, well everyone ends up losing. The sequestration legislation forces massive cuts on both the military and non-defense spending programs. The inability of our government to come to an agreement that could be used by either side during the elections as caving in on their core principles will instead produce painful cuts to programs both parties strongly support. It’s no way to run a household, a business nor a government. It’s plain stupidity and we’ve no time or stomach for any more childish behavior.
How the devastating affects of Super Storm Sandy will effect all this is yet another straw on the back of an already heavily strained economy and a government in denial of its impending doom. But with the election season now behind us we can only hope the form of cover Congress put in place as opposed to dealing with these critical issues can now be addressed by responsible parties who have committed to resolving the financial and employment problems that have plagued our nation for the past decade.
Let’s hope we’ve elected the right individuals who are up to the task of working across party lines and are willing to put the nation’s interests ahead of political gamesmanship. As a nation we are out of time, out of blame and out of money. We need solutions not tricks and gimmicks. The cliff is getting closer and the foolishness must stop.
Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.