Pharos-Tribune

November 27, 2012

OUR VIEW: Time to solve nation's fiscal crisis


— Everyone seems to agree that it’s long past time for our nation’s leaders to come up with a plan to avoid the “fiscal cliff” of massive tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect next year.

We agree, that is, until we start talking specifics.

A coalition of business groups, for example, says it’s all for cutting spending, but it says raising tax rates is out of the question.

The homebuilding industry wants a deal, too, but it says it won’t tolerate even a small drop in the mortgage interest deduction, even as part of a broad, spread-the-pain package designed to tame the soaring debt.

And the American Association of Retired Persons says it’s absolutely against any cuts to Medicare and Social Security. The organization opposes the notion of slowing the cost-of-living formula for Social Security recipients, even if it’s part of a big, bipartisan compromise, and it says President Barack Obama ought to forget about the idea of raising Medicare’s eligibility age.

So much for the notion of shared sacrifice.

Congress and the White House face a Dec. 31 deadline to come up with a far-reaching deficit-reduction plan. If they fail, the government tips over the so-called fiscal cliff. Nearly everyone’s taxes will go up, and federal programs will be slashed.

Economists say the effect might mean another jolt to financial markets and maybe even a new recession.

In spite of the threat, the various interests seem far from settled on a solution.

An Associated Press story reports that it’s virtually every group for itself in Washington these days. Everyone’s scrambling to protect every penny of every tax break and government payout it now enjoys. It notes that the old adage, “Don’t tax thee, don’t tax me, tax the man behind the tree” was never more in vogue.

We all agree on the wisdom of compromise when we’re talking in the abstract, but when the talk turns to specific ideas that run counter to philosophies or bottom lines, we get a little less flexible.

Maybe it’s just too early to start thinking about making a deal. The big deadline, after all, is still more than a month away.

Still, it’s troubling to hear the talk on Sunday morning news programs that going over the proverbial cliff might not be so bad after all.

It’s time to start taking this threat seriously. It’s time to find a solution.