On New Year’s Eve, I cared nothing about Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin in Times Square. I did not let off fireworks. I did not watch the peach drop. I did not even have champagne at midnight. Rather, I instructed the kid to avoid the perils of revelers on the road—stay in one place to sing Auld Lang Syne—and put my 2012 to bed at an early hour.
You see, when it comes to New Year’s, one can rightly call me a fuddy-duddy. I have always found this shift to “new beginnings” painfully artificial and mostly irrelevant. Real change has never been about a new date on a calendar or blowing horns in a crowd or getting a good luck kiss. Such rituals might be entertaining, but they amount to empty noise in the grand scheme.
In fact, it seems appropriate New Year’s Eve was the setting for a bit of political theater with which to close a tired year. After all, on New Year’s Day, I awoke to find the fiscal cliff magically averted by senators whose sole function lately seems to me to be to make me feel more cynical about my government.
Whilst understanding that a reasonable approach to macroeconomics can never be a matter of austerity alone, I concede little credit now to politicians from either party for averting a politically created crisis at the eleventh hour.
Was there not time to get an appropriate act together before the lame duck session? What ever happened to that Simpson-Bowles plan?
Regardless, the House has now also compromised with the president on tax hikes, and the result is that our glorious leaders in Washington have created what any intellectually honest person can see is the fiscal equivalent to pasting half a band-aid on a giant gash that is gushing streams of green.
However, as one of those taxpayers who knows I’m just expected to hear this miraculous fix, throw confetti and drink some more bubbly, this latest debt deal just sounds like more of those endless resolutions people make to little effect.
Of course some of this lack of change in the state of the nation is as predictable as a failed diet.
There will soon be a second inauguration for the exact same man currently on vacation in Hawaii, and the overall balance of power has never really shifted.
I’m even feeling a bit of déjà vu when it comes to snarky partisanship from the president.
On December 31, he made sure to reach across the aisle to announce with a smirk that those on the right had finally put aside deeply held ideological beliefs about raising taxes. He then added, “Now, if Republicans think that I will finish the job of deficit reduction through spending cuts alone -- and you hear that sometimes coming from them, that … [they’re] just going to… shove spending cuts at us... then they’ve another thing coming….”
It seems our fearless leader has decided to continue with his heart-felt efforts to unite his fellow Americans, which have long made him look to me like Moses pulling together the Red Sea.
Of course it’s true that President Obama’s gotten his tax hikes on the wealthy. This was the price Democrats set to stop the sunset of the Bush tax cuts on the vast majority of Americans they are always saying they are so interested in protecting.
Still, I’m not quite sure I’d want to tout this point too much.
When one understands that by compromising on top rates as they did—no small thing when having to answer to the voters they represent in their districts—Republicans have made permanent the middle class tax cuts that would never have even existed if Democrats had gotten their way when George W. Bush was in office.
Additionally, the “deal” negotiated at the last second on the clock of the time bomb that the White House itself started ticking actually increases spending by more than three hundred billion dollars over the next decade.
Even so, by agreeing to these terms, Republicans cannot now be painted as obstructionists. By not shielding top earners, Republicans have openly acknowledged that the president indeed won the election. Yet in a very challenging political climate, they have done their best to avert as much economic blowback as possible.
Yet I still must note after making no real attempt to deal with the deficit—only another speech on January 1 that calls for more “investment,” i.e. spending, and more revenues from the “wealthiest corporations and individuals” in future—I am left to wonder what exactly is the president “shoving” in Republicans’ direction?
I guess we’ll find out in two months when this drama resumes.
With the champagne corks and party hats in the trashcan, when it comes to Washington, 2013 looks exactly like 2012.
With no joy left for politics, I can only say, “Cheers!”