In Our View: Postponing Problems

Fiscal cliff was delayed, but no progress is seen in curtailing overspending

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Consummate can-kicking by Congress and President Obama has done virtually nothing to improve America's economic predicament, and in some ways has made it worse. That conclusion is drawn despite this week's Wall Street gains of more than 3 percent in the Dow and other indicators. Those advances could be reversed later.Trying to avoid a figurative cliff, Beltway politicians have increased stimulus spending and extended unemployment spending in addition to raising taxes, but with no significant spending cuts. One might argue the sequestration could have provided a better outcome than this week's bill. At least the issue of spending would have been addressed.

Many Congress members, including U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, say they had no other choice. A statement from the Camas Republican (who voted for the bill) said "we were put in a position where higher taxes hit every working American — an outcome that was absolutely unacceptable to me." But what's absolutely unacceptable to Herrera Beutler's constituents is the Republicans' clumsy inability to do anything about the Democrats' unbridled overspending. We hope she keeps "this commitment to reducing federal spending." And Americans should hope the swearing in of the 113th Congress will expedite a more unified approach to solving the nation's deficit spending and resultant growing debt.

This week's costly can-kicking came in three forms, two of which will conspire to present a perfect storm — more accurately, a looming economic catastrophe — in a couple of months.

The much-feared but not-altogether-harmful sequester has not been squelched, only delayed until about March 1, at which time key federal agencies will confront forced cuts of up to 10 percent. Such an indiscriminate sledge-hammer strategy is no way to run a government. Yet the profligate spenders and the intransigent partisans in Congress have left themselves no other choice.

Second, the debt ceiling remains unaddressed. Technically, the ceiling was hit on Monday, according to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. But some borrowing tricks will postpone the impact until late February, according to money.cnn.com, which also explained: "Last year, political brinksmanship over the debt limit led to the downgrade of the country's credit rating, roiled stock markets and raised questions about the country's unwillingness to pay all of its bills on time." Imagine that. In America, no less.

Third, the Senate remains incapable of passing a budget. That's been the case for at least three years, and as money.cnn.com also pointed out, the current continuing resolution expires March 27.

Among those searching for rays of hope in this economic train wreck are Washington Congress members who are excited that our state's sales-tax deduction has been extended (for two years) for payers of federal income taxes. Truth is, we've had that for years, and if Congress was a little smarter, it would make the deduction permanent.

This is the season of "new." A new year and 90 new members of Congress. House members should follow the advice in a recent Wall Street Journal article: "Having been cornered into letting Democrats carry this special-interest slag heap through the House, Speaker John Boehner should from now on cease all backdoor negotiations and pursue regular legislative order." Congress and the president must recognize that (1) public service means more than postponing problems, and (2) if they don't start reducing the national debt soon, the damage is likely to linger for generations.