Rich Wilkins wants to give Charlie Dent and the 85 House Republicans some credit for voting for the Senate’s fiscal cliff compromise. I don’t, for two reasons.
The fiscal cliff was a political crisis, not an economic crisis. The issue was whether the US political system could pull together and stop a crisis of its own making, or if the Republican commitment to anti-tax politics would push us back into recession. The markets are not forcing us to reduce our debt or deficits. Quite the opposite. The issue was that a few different austerity measures were going to take effect that would reduce the deficit too much, too quickly. Charlie Dent and the Republicans have spent the past 4 years whining about the deficit, but when it finally came time for them to do something that would shrink the deficit by a lot, it turned out they didn’t really believe any of that stuff. They don’t really believe that a big deficit is hurting the economic recovery. That says a lot about how Charlie Dent’s been voting for 4 years.
The other reason Dent and the 85 House Republican cross-overs don’t deserve credit is because they helped create this political crisis in the first place.
The fiscal cliff was four main things – the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, the expiration of the payroll tax cut, the expiration of unemployment insurance, and the sequester cuts.
Extending unemployment insurance and especially the payroll tax cut were no brainers. There was never any reason not to do both of those things, but we didn’t extend the payroll tax cut, and unemployment insurance only barely made it in.
The Bush tax cuts were the subject of the 2012 election, and President Obama won that big. Obviously he should get his way on that, but he ended up compromising anyway.
But the last reason this happened – the sequester – is entirely the Republicans’ fault. They held the debt ceiling hostage for spending cuts (the “Boehner rule”) and how that ended was the Budget Control Act. The BCA established the supercommittee, and if the supercommittee failed, then the sequester would take effect and cut a bunch of spending arbitrarily. Republicans, including Paul Ryan, scuttled the supercommittee negotiations, so we ended up with the sequester.
Charlie Dent was right there with the rightwingers in the House on holding the debt ceiling hostage, and that’s what kicked all of this off. We should’t pat him on the head for diffusing a crisis of his own making. If you don’t want your Congressman to help create fake crises and then diffuse them later, then you need to replace your Republican Congressman with a Democrat.