Editorial: We're creeping back to fiscal cliff's edge
Action on the "fiscal cliff" that kept Americans riveted to Washington exploits over the past two months would have you think the problem has been solved. However, our leaders merely kicked the can down the road.
The "cliff" deal of New Year's Eve and Jan. 1 prevented most of the $4.6 trillion in tax hikes. Up next will be more showdowns:
About five weeks from now, the Treasury Department will hit its legal borrowing limit. This is called the debt limit, which was raised previously by Congress and President Obama has said it is not a negotiating point.
Ironically, the Constitution requires the government to pay its debt service. Really. But, if the debt limit is not raised, the Treasury will have to choose which of the government's obligations it will ignore. This means that everyone who receives money from the government will be in danger of not getting paid.
After the debt limit question is settled, next comes the "sequester." These are scheduled, automatic spending cuts totaling $1.2 trillion - most of which were only temporarily averted in the "fiscal cliff" deal. They include military and domestic spending, according to The Associated Press, and became law the last time the debt limit was raised.
After getting past the sequester, our leaders will have to agree on legislation to keep the government running. With the federal government operating on a series of continuing resolutions since 2010, if no agreement is made on federal spending, the federal government will have to shut down.
Media reports show that the "fiscal cliff" was averted only after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, exchanged harsh words. Obama taunted members of the GOP during an appearance at the White House on New Year's Eve.
This is the tone that 2013 brings and what we can expect for the next four years. If politics of "old" are any indication, it will be business as usual - divided and cantankerous.
Should this continue, Obama's chances of making progress with a divided Congress will continue to deteriorate. That is at odds with his agenda, including gun control and immigration. Bipartisan goals at risk consist of entitlement and tax reforms, among others. What we have seen in the past four years is a president who has advanced his agenda, if not through Congress, then by executive orders and Justice Department opinions.
It is time for our "leaders" - we use that term loosely - to not kick the can, but reform by picking it up and recycling it.