Opinion: ATM culture grips federal government

January 5, 2013


Everything that everyone loathes about Washington was present in the “fiscal cliff” bill just passed by Congress. It is 153 pages long; most members probably hadn’t read all of it before voting on it; it was delivered in the middle of the night; it was loaded with pork — the mother’s milk (to mix a metaphor) of politicians — and while the country is already swamped with massive debt, it contains massive giveaways to satisfy interest groups and campaign contributors. Did I mention the bill raises taxes on top of the coming Obamacare taxes, but does nothing — nothing — to address the debt problem?

As with previous congresses, this one (again) delayed the debt issue for two months and will have to face it again, along with what to do about the debt ceiling. Only expletives that can’t be printed in a family newspaper accurately characterize this bunch, so I’ll have to settle for pathetic, unprincipled and irresponsible.

This “fiscal cliff” was a construct created by Congress. The additional revenue from productive businesses and individuals earning more than $400,000 and couples making $450,000 won’t put more than the tiniest dent in the deficit and do nothing about the $16 trillion debt. According to the Congressional Budget Office the ratio of new taxes to spending cuts is 41 to 1. This assumes the cuts actually materialize, which is unlikely. If they do, they will merely be window dressing.

We’ve seen it all before. Democrats play this game more effectively than a nimble-handed magician. According to Americans for Tax Reform, in 1982, congressional Democrats promised President Reagan “$3 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes.” Reagan agreed. He got the tax hikes immediately, but had his political pocket picked when Democrats never came through with the spending cuts.

It was the same with President George H.W. “read my lips, no new taxes” Bush. In 1990, “Bush agreed to $2 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes. The tax hikes went through... Not a single penny of the promised spending cuts actually happened.”

Democrats run this play so often you would think by now Republicans might have devised a better defense. But just like the smear that Republicans are anti-woman because they oppose spending tax dollars on free contraceptives and abortion, or lack compassion for the poor because they oppose increasing federal programs that don’t actually help the poor become less so, Republicans get trapped into voting to increase taxes in exchange for more empty promises to cut spending ... eventually. And the country is the one that loses.

Conservatives sent a large number of “tea party” members to the House in the 2010 election, hoping to fix government. It hasn’t worked because the political culture there has been contaminated by an untreatable virus and even those with the best intentions soon acquire the infection.

Eighty-five Republicans voted for the monstrous bill because their leaders said that if they didn’t it would hurt the party’s chances in the next election. Think of how the media would treat them.

The country should make up its mind. Do we want a government that lives within the boundaries of the Constitution — limited, financially stable and spending only on what the Constitution says it should — or, do we want a nation whose initials should be changed to ATM, dispensing goodies to any and all without regard to the financial health and welfare of this and future generations?

Passage of this bill seems to indicate the choice has been made and ATM has won. It is a sorry affair for which we, and future generations, will be sorry, indeed.

— Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.


Cait McKnelly 5 years, 4 months ago

Why is it that the LJ World is reminding me of Fox News more and more every day? Every conservative pundit (many of them with their noses up the butts of the Tea Party) in the country is featured in this paper; George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Cal Thomas, David Ignatius; with lonely Leonard Pitts (not just a token liberal but also a token "black man") the only dissenting voice.
Was the World flagship bought out by a Rupert Murdoch holding company when I wasn't looking?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 4 months ago

I agree with you, Cait. The readers would be better served if they had more liberal columnists offering a different perspective. I'd also like a columnist or two who are neither liberal nor conservative. Perhaps someone representing that muddled middle ground that I've been accused of occupying or perhaps a Libertarian point of view. There really is no reason for the discussion to be limited to liberal and conservative, Democrat or Republican.

That said, we've had a rash of posters here who have been disappeared, which is being done at the sole discretion of the LJW. And it's become obvious to me that a pattern has emerged, one that favors the more liberal commentators while the more conservative become the victims of the disappearing. Granted, the tone of those being disappeared is often outrageous, but not always. And no more, no less outrageous than comments made by those on the left that are left to stand with no consequence.

I don't know if the LJW is trying to maintain some balance with their policy of having more conservative columnists but then having greater consequences of conservative posters, but "Fair and Balanced" it ain't.

Hoots 5 years, 4 months ago

You are all a bunch of idiots if you still believe in democrats or republicans. All these people care about is padding their own pockets. They all take money from most of the same companies and individuals if you care to look. It's called covering your bases. You'd be better off believing in hookers at the Bunny Ranch. There was money in the Cliff bill for down on their luck industries such as NASCAR and the film industry. Give me a break. Once again my tax dollars are sent off to billionaires.

Sunny Parker 5 years, 4 months ago

Obuma's lies are catching up with him! You might look at your paycheck (if you actually work) and notice more taxes are being withheld, no matter how much you make!

Kendall Simmons 5 years, 4 months ago

Exactly what "lies" are you talking about?

I mean, everyone I know realized that the payroll tax was going back up from 4.2% to 6.2% this year...and that the "fiscal cliff" had nothing to do with it.

Did you not know that??? You poor dear.

Katara 5 years, 4 months ago

The FICA tax holiday was meant to expire this year. There was no talk of extending it. And it does matter how much you make in regards to the FICA taxes. There is a wage cap on it. Only the 1st $110,000 of your income is subject to FICA taxes and it is assessed on wage income.

The complaints about the FICA taxes being returned to their original level (6.2%) after the tax holiday is like taking advantage of the tax holiday in August for school supplies and then complaining your sales tax increased if you purchase those same items after the tax holiday.

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