I am getting a headache from too much politics. After what seemed like an endless election cycle, I was hoping for a merciful respite. I expected the losers could quietly lick their wounds and the winners would silently bask in their victory.
No such luck.
RIGHT-WING Republicans are loudly blaming Mitt Romney for not being conservative enough and running a bad campaign. Establishment Republicans are working on modifying the party’s positions to appeal to more voters. And this debate is taking place prominently on Fox News, in The Wall Street Journal and elsewhere in the conservative media.
Democrats have also refused to quiet down. At his first news conference in eight months, President Obama declared he has a mandate. U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi announced that she will remain House minority leader because her Democratic caucus insists. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid laid out a liberal agenda which he says the Senate will support.
This high-decibel political jabber is all posturing in preparation for our most important political challenge: the fiscal cliff. The lame duck session of Congress has less than five weeks to modify the automatic $500 billion in annual tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013. Congress needs to get to work.
We voters on the sidelines, however, need a post-election time-out. So, if you want to tune out politics, enjoy football and disengage until the new year, let me tell you how the fiscal cliff will be resolved.
Most significantly, there will be an increase in taxes for higher-income taxpayers. The Republican leadership has indicated they are open to increasing revenues, and that was the necessary step to make an overall agreement possible.
RAISING TAXES will be the most contentious issue, but it is inevitable. The president campaigned on eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, the majority of Americans agree, and, even if he does nothing, the Bush tax cuts disappear Jan. 1. The president’s proposed $1.6 trillion revenue increase over 10 years is only a negotiating position, and the ultimate revenue increase will be less.
The temporary 2 percent Social Security tax reduction will expire Jan. 1. All wage earners’ take-home pay will decrease by 2 percent.
Democrats will agree to entitlement cuts.
Future Social Security increases based on cost of living will be reduced, despite what AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says.
The plan to cut payments to Medicare doctors will be reversed, but Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries will take a hit. Eligibility age could be increased above age 65, and means testing may go into effect.
THE ALTERNATIVE minimum tax will get a temporary fix. The AMT unintentionally taxes too many middle-class taxpayers, and politicians will suspend it. A permanent fix will be addressed in 2013 tax reform negotiations.
Sequestration will not happen. Revenue increases and entitlement cuts will surpass the $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction needed to satisfy the sequestration threshold. Sequestration is a terrible way to cut spending, and it is dangerous to the military.
This is a reasonable compromise plan, balanced with tax increases and entitlement cuts. The process will be bumpy, and everything may not be done on time. But the fiscal cliff will ultimately be avoided.
All Americans will share in its sacrifices and its benefits. The business community and financial markets will embrace this solution, leading to job growth and increased prosperity.
Now that you know the fiscal cliff will be favorably resolved, you can turn off MSNBC, Fox News and CNN until New Year’s Day.
Make the rest of 2012 a politics-free zone. You deserve it.
(The writer is a retired U.S. Navy officer. He lives and writes in Savannah.)