Oh, the fiscal cliff, and where does it leave us?
You could say the markets were pleased, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumping, if not for joy, at least up by more than 300 points.
You could say that Govs. Christie and Cuomo were not, or at least that they were angry that Congress ignored action to help New York and New Jersey recover from Hurricane Sandy. Christie tongue-lashed Congress and, in particular, the House of Representatives and Speaker John Boehner for the inaction. Boehner responded by scheduling votes on relief packages Friday and Jan. 15.
You could say that wind energy proponents were happy that tax credits will be extended for their projects into 2013. Conceivably this could have some favorable impact on Kansas, and nationally it’s projected to save 37,000 jobs.
If you’re planning to build a NASCAR track you’re probably pleased that accelerated depreciation (sounds appropriate for this, right?) was extended.
Apparently, according to the Washington Post and others, the cliff bill also will help take care of numerous special interests, ranging from banks to Puerto Rican rum to Hollywood film production to subsidizing coal production on Indian lands.
Some who may be disappointed are wage-earners who thought they were escaping a tax increase because the cliff legislation extended tax cuts for all but the wealthiest Americans. Hold on! The rolled-back Social Security rate didn’t stay rolled back, so paychecks will be slightly smaller this year. (Which begs anew several issues, such as: Why should ordinary citizens be forced to set aside money for contingencies such as retirement and medical care when the government just prints money to cover its own overruns?)
All in all, for many observers, it’s business as usual in a dysfunctional Congress that is more interested in taking care of itself and contributors than in everyday people and “unimportant” constituents.
And of Speaker Boehner’s troubles in getting his party organized, well, some speculate that because he doesn’t have earmarks to dole out the way those favors once were played, he has little leverage over his troops: Witness the 10 votes from his party that he did not receive in Thursday’s balloting for the speaker position in the 113th Congress. Life’s tough.
So, with the same speaker of the House, more adventures lie ahead in the new Congress. The lawmakers simply postponed dealing with the automatic spending cuts to defense and domestic programs that had been scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, and also still must deal with the matter of raising the nation’s borrowing authority.
Hold onto your seats! It looks like more fun’s around the corner.
An earlier version of this story included incorrect information about Congress and Social Security. Although they receive separate pensions based on their age, years of service and salary, members of Congress also have been required to pay into the Social Security system since 1984.