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Humility, compromise in Washington D.C.

November 29, 2012


You may have seen this quote after the election criticizing the White House’s take on its win: “Maybe peace would have broken out with a different kind of White House, one less committed to waging a perpetual campaign – a White House that would see a 51-48 victory as a call to humility and compromise rather than an irrefutable mandate.”

If you recognize that quote, you may have read Barack Obama’s book, “The Audacity of Hope.” Obama wrote the quote above in reference to George W. Bush winning a second term. Now that President Obama is walking in President Bush’s shoes in more ways than one, maybe he’ll heed his own call for “humility and compromise” neither of which we’ve seen out of the Obama administration.

The buzz in Washington between now and the end of the year is all about the fiscal cliff. The mainstream media has buried Benghazi, and Fast and Furious was a movie, wasn’t it? Obamacare continues to increase healthcare costs and reduce healthcare options for those over 75 years of age. But, the mainstream media has apparently lost its ability to multitask and has focused its attention pretty much on the fiscal cliff.

So, what’s the deal with the fiscal cliff? If Washington does nothing between now and the end of the year, the so-called Bush tax cuts will expire and “sequestration” will kick in. Sequestration goes back to the deal the White House and Congress made way back in 2011 to force Washington to do something about runaway deficits/debt or else. Sequestration is “or else” in that all parties agreed if Washington did nothing to balance the huge gap between revenue and spending, then Defense and domestic spending would automatically be cut about $500 billion each beginning January 1, 2013.

Expiration of 2001 and 2003 tax cuts is another part of the fiscal cliff. If these tax cuts are allowed to expire, analysts say median income families will pay somewhere between $2,000 – $3,300 more in federal taxes in 2013. Ouch!

President Obama says the election gave him a mandate to raise taxes on the top 2 percent of taxpayers which he says make $200,000 (individual) or $250,000 (couple) per year, and he says he will not sign anything that does not raise taxes on these taxpayers. So much for humility and compromise.

How much money are we talking about here? Analysts estimate raising tax rates on the top 2 percent to pre-tax-cut levels would raise around $80 billion more revenue per year. Republicans in Congress have agreed we need to raise revenue, but are balking at raising tax rates. Instead, they are arguing we should limit tax deductions to somewhere below $50,000 per year, and the same analysts say such a move would raise approximately the same amount of revenue as raising tax rates.

Can all the parties in Washington work together to solve our fiscal problems? It will certainly take a lot of humility and compromise not to mention a little bit of leadership to keep America from going off the fiscal cliff. When was the last time we saw humility and compromise in Washington?

Daniel L. Gardner is a syndicated columnist who lives in Starkville. Contact him at

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