Jul 12, 2012 - By The Dallas Morning News ServicesWhenever talk in Washington turns to the Bush tax cuts, few seem willing to separate election year bombast from the harsh economic reality that gridlock soon could cost this nation dearly.
This week, President Barack Obama drew his line in the sand, proposing a one-year extension of the Bush tax cuts for families earning less than $250,000 a year.
Republican lawmakers did the same, refusing to budge from their desire to make sure the wealthiest taxpayers also get tax breaks.
The fight is purely political, disingenuous and a betrayal of middle-income families who are feeling the pinch of a stalling economy. In June, the nation added a paltry 80,000 jobs, marking the fourth consecutive month of disappointing job growth. The U.S. economy is suffering while both sides posture on positions that lack enough votes to pass.
Such governance, if you can call it that, is fiscally irresponsible.
We have a word to Washington: Go play chicken with someone else's economy, because this one is not strong enough to withstand the shock if tax cuts expire in December. At the very least, Congress and the White House must temporarily extend the Bush tax cuts to middle-class Americans as quickly as possible to provide a dose of certainty to the struggling economy. Further, if politicians are willing to look, there is considerable room for compromise among the president's plan, the Republican position and a proposal by Sen. Charles Schumer of New York and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, which would temporarily extend tax cuts to families earning less than $1 million a year.
The danger of inaction is that today's economic uncertainty could easily become a full-fledged financial crisis in the next six months. If the tax cuts expire, the tax increase would hurt investors, small businesses, large corporations and average working Americans. Add in the automatic across-the-board spending cuts and another ludicrous and contentious debate over the debt ceiling, and lawmakers are dangerously close to tossing a burning match into a financial tinderbox.
The nation needs to add a least 250,000 jobs each month to prevent the economy from stalling. As long as the political debate is about painting rivals as obstructionists and class warriors and not about resuscitating economic growth, we're courting a disastrous slowdown.
Indeed, we're not enthralled by the prospect of ad hoc tax policy with a deadline looming. Lawmakers and presidents have missed many opportunities over decades to have averted this eleventh-hour dilemma. And there is still work to be done to reduce the deficit, trim spending, revamp Social Security and Medicare, and flatten the tax code as well as close loopholes.
No reasonable person can pretend that partisan political recrimination is an able substitute for fiscal responsibility. We need leaders who will put middle-class families ahead of election-year politics.
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