In Tokyo on Wednesday, Shinzo Abe took office as prime minister of Japan, pledging to overcome deep-rooted economic and diplomatic crises facing that nation.
In Egypt, as adoption of a new Islamist-supported constitution appeared to further destabilize the politically divided country under President Mohammed Morsi, the country’s economy was descending into turmoil.
And President Obama cut short his holiday vacation in Hawaii to return to Washington, D.C., where the wrangling over the so-called “fiscal cliff” appears headed down to the Dec. 31 end-of-the-year wire.
Welcome to today’s real world. Anyone remember Greece? Italy? Ireland?
It would be expecting too much to expect statesmanship, leadership or genuine compromise out of our nation’s capital. What seems most likely is that the nation will go over the cliff, at least temporarily.
The tax hikes and spending cuts that are part of the “cliff” package take effect over a two-year period, so there’s believed to be time to refine the plan after a new Congress is seated in January. Some have suggested that allowing the “cliff” tax hikes now may become more acceptable because it will put the new Congress in the position to discuss how to reduce taxes — something members possibly could agree on.
However, even if the spending cuts and tax increases are resolved quickly, Congress hasn’t dodged all of its responsibility. Most government sources estimate that in February, another increase in the nation’s $16.4 trillion debt ceiling will be needed. Then on the following March 27, the current funding authority for the federal government expires, meaning the government would shut down — unless there’s another agreement.
So, the dominoes are lined up for a series of political battles, and leaders and the rank-and-file in both parties seem to have dug in their heels. It will be exceptionally noteworthy to watch and see whether it continues to be politics as usual — postponing hard decisions for another election cycle — or finding a rational way to impose a sensible combination of spending cuts and tax increases to bring the country’s growing debt under some measure of control. Kansas sends only a handful of votes into this fray, but how they’re cast and how those senators and representatives justify their actions is of more than passing importance.
Americans tend to be a bit smug when considering the problems faced by other leaders such as Morsi and Abe, but if the U.S. isn’t able to avoid its impending economic train wreck, the problems our country will face may make other nations’ challenges look like child’s play.