Casey Stengel, who managed the New York Mets to a record 120- loss inaugural season in 1962, once told the public (through reporters) to come out to the ballpark and see his club’s “amazin'” ineptitude.
“I’ve been in this game a hundred years, but I see new ways to lose I never knew existed before,” Stengel was quoted.
If Stengel was around to see the fiscal cliff debacle we just witnessed, he might have said the same thing about Congress and the White House. In recent years, Washington has proven itself to be just as hapless as the 1962 Mets.
But the Mets only lost baseball games; Washington’s incompetence is slowly driving the nation into economic ruin.
Back in the summer of 2011, a bipartisan “supercommittee” was formed to examine ways to improve the country’s finances and lower the massive debt. If that supercommittee couldn’t broker a deal by November 2011, a set of automatic austerity measures-including income tax increases (which Republicans hate) and massive spending reductions (which Democrats hate)-would take effect on Jan. 1, 2013.
Of course, that supercommittee-to the shock of no one-failed to broker a deal by November 2011. That meant that Congress and the president had 13 months-397 days-to find a way around those austerity measures which became dubbed as the “fiscal cliff.”
Since President Obama and incumbent Congress members were running for re-election, the fiscal cliff was put on the back burner until Election Day, Nov. 6, 2012. Even so, that still left 55 days for the power brokers in Washington to hammer out a budget deal. None came.
When we rang in the new year at midnight on Jan. 1, the fiscal cliff went into effect. Before midnight, the Senate and the White House struck a last-minute deal to stop much of it, but the House-true to form-had adjourned for the evening. The House came back the following night and approved the deal.
So what are we getting from this legislative deal? President Obama had wanted a fiscal package that would have added $1.2 trillion in revenue over the next decade. This new law, which includes tax hikes for those making over $450,000 a year, only raises $620 billion in new tax revenue in 10 years.
Amazingly, in a bill with an objective of helping to bring the country’s finances in order, there was a ton of pork in it. Included in the law is $43 million to assist NASCAR racetracks, $1.5 billion in tax credits for foreign subsidies and a loophole to allow banks to support offshore financing believed to be worth $9 billion.
This is what passes for fiscal restraint in Washington these days. Only this band of misfit lawmakers could come up with a fiscal austerity bill that includes corporate welfare.
Oh, and remember that $62 billion Hurricane Sandy relief package which the Senate approved last week? Not only was that not included in the final fiscal cliff deal, but the House adjourned for the session without bothering to take an up-or-down vote on it. What a disgrace!
And yet, after this debacle, many of these self-serving lawmakers found their nearest cameras and patted themselves on the back for saving the country from certain economic ruin. Who exactly do they think they are trying to fool?
If there was any doubt that our system of government is broken and incapable of solving our problems, the fiscal cliff debacle shattered that doubt. We deserve better than this. The problem is that we keep voting these fools back into power.
Perhaps the fault lies “not in the stars, but in ourselves.”