Bi-Partisanship?

The GOP has offered to allow tax increases on those Americans earning one million dollars or more.  This is a departure from “no tax increases at all”.  It is a meaningful offer and it could not occur at a better time.

There are said to be some strings.

For instance, Democrats have to agree to meaningful cuts in Medicare and Social Security.  Previously changing the Medicare starting age from 65 to 67, and changing the Social Security inflation formula have been discussed.  As an additional sweetener, the GOP has offered to delay any fight over extending the debt ceiling for one year.  All in all this sounds good.  But what does the math say?

If the math is ok, 2013 could be a very good year.  Congress’ time could be used to find a lasting solutions for the unfunded nature of entitlements without a threat of a debt limit fight.  If the math is ok, Congress could find a fair way to reform the tax code including setting either a higher tax rate on capital gains and dividends, or setting a minimum tax rate (say 30%) for anyone earning more than $1 million (as Warren Buffett has suggested).

Such a fiscal cliff compromise would be an admission that the US deficit and debt issue can only be brought under control if benefits are reduced and taxes are increased.  How that compromised is reached is a test for our political process.  Until now both sides have taken the position, “it’s my way or the highway”.

If the tragedy at Sandy Hock Elementary School is going to be anything more than just another senseless slaughter, a majority of Congress must abdicate its practice of strict party lines.  Congress must enact thoughtful comprehensive measures to deal with mass killings, if not also reduce the person on person killings.  A good fiscal cliff agreement might bring on a positive legislative environment.

Congress also has immigration reform teed up.  No meaningful progress can be made there either unless a spirit of togetherness emerges.

Settle the fiscal cliff issue, even if imperfectly.  Claim bi-partisan agreement.  And move onto issues that really count and can not be resolved without bi-partisanship.

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