Civil Discussion: Fiscal Cliff Diving and the Loss of 50 Precious Dollars a Month

Civil Discussion: Fiscal Cliff Diving and the Loss of 50 Precious Dollars a Month January 4, 2013

“Your loss of $7 beers might prevent a senior citizen’s benefits from being cut. Kinda calls into question the morality of being against ALL tax raises, doesn’t it?”

Every Friday in Civil Discussion, Ben Bartlett (Christ and Pop Culture writer who majored in Political Theory) and Richard Clark (Christ and Pop Culture editor-in-chief, and a political spectator who is friends with a guy who majored in Political Theory) discuss political events as they happen over email, hashing out the meaning and manipulations behind them. Also just being bros. 

Richard: Hey Ben, I hope you had a good New Year’s Eve!Speaking of great New Year’s Eve, let’s talk about the whole fiscal cliff thing: what on earth just happened?

Ben: Well, it’s safe to say that Republicans blinked. The President wanted to make tax breaks for the middle class permanent, and wanted to raise taxes for the upper 2%, and he got it. Meanwhile, the Republicans looked petulant and childish for whining about increased taxes for rich people.

That said, there are still a couple major challenges here. First, there are still major tax reforms and spending cuts that need to be made to address the deficit. This did nothing to help that situation. Second, Obama is going to have a tough time with PR because despite the fact that he technically saved lots of tax money for the middle class, in fact our paychecks are still going to be lower; say, about 50 bucks each paycheck for someone like me. He’ll have to own that, because the Republicans have made clear that they are against all tax raises.

Case in point: When I came to work this morning, several people (admittedly they are Republicans) were already complaining about how the President is giving federal workers a pay raise and is increasing their taxes by 1000 bucks per year. They essentially viewed their current tax situation as a given entitlement, rather than the temporary thing it was supposed to be.

Also, how crazy is it that again the President and the Speaker couldn’t get anything done, and again they were bailed out by Biden and McConnell? Biden is no Machiavellian like Cheney was, but he has certainly emerged as the key deal-maker in an administration that is woefully short on them.

Richard: Yeah, it was definitely an interesting turn of events.

So I am going to take a wild guess here and say that we are not in the clear now? Like, we’re basically still screwed, right? Should we have gone ahead and jumped off the cliff instead of pass a crappy bill?

Also – our taxes are going up now! $50 a month out of my paycheck is a lot! Ben, Obama stole a videogame a month from me. Or was it a Republican? Either way, DISASTER!

Ben: Your reaction speaks volumes about American politics. Considered correctly, for two years you were given an extra 50 bucks per month, so you could buy important games like Rat on a Skateboard and Lollipop Chainsaw. That period has simply come to an end.

But, like so many Americans (and children under the age of 6), you feel entitled and ungrateful. No wonder politicians make short-term promises and change their minds with the wind!

I don’t think we’re screwed. It just means there’s more changes still to come, because the national debt is still a problem that needs to be addressed and our economy is still moving slowly.

On the other hand, the stock market did go up yesterday. And that pretty much justifies anything, right?


But yeah I had forgotten that my Rat on a Skateboard money was a temporary tax break measure. But you’re telling me that those kinds of tax hikes (or tax normalizations, I dunno whatever) aren’t bad for the economy? Because I am already telling myself I’ve got to spend less, which is kind of a bummer for those places where I am usually like HEY OKAY I’LL TAKE A $7 BEER.

Ben: “Good for the economy” is a more fluid concept than you might imagine. For example, it sounds “bad” for the economy that people have slightly less money to spend. But that money is being given to Social Security. If Social Security’s costs go over the amount of Social Security taxes produced by the American workforce, the government will have to borrow to pay those costs. And what does borrowing mean? An increase in the national debt (the alternative is cutting benefits, which could also have a detrimental effect on the economy in a variety of ways).

The economy has so many moving parts that things which seem bad in one spot might be good in another spot, so determining the “best” spot for taxes and programs and the like is actually quite difficult. Your loss of $7 beers might prevent a senior citizen’s benefits from being cut. Kinda calls into question the morality of being against ALL tax raises, doesn’t it?

At the same time, there is some amazingly wasteful spending that goes on in government. Elected officials have an amazing ability to forget that the huge dollar numbers they play with started with struggling artists and low level office workers like us. Wouldn’t it be nice if they didn’t fund anything that wasn’t as beneficial as leaving that money in our pockets?

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