Press-Republican

Columns

February 24, 2013

Political courage needed to avert fiscal cliff

A branch of economics called game theory posits an interesting conclusion. Rational adversaries will not take seriously any threat that is not credible. Such incredible threats would hurt both sides, and should be ruled out in a negotiation.

Clearly, Congress is not rational.

In an effort to put a gun to its head, Congress agreed to delay a plan toward a balanced budget under penalty of a “fiscal cliff” if they fail to come up with an agreement by a specified date.

That specified date came and went as Congress kicked the can down the road. Fiscal Cliff II opens on Friday at a theater near you.

We’ve known for decades we would reach a point when some of our entitlement programs will go into the red. Social Security, intended to be sustainable, now has greater outflows than income and will exhaust its accumulated surplus within two decades. At that point, payroll taxes will have to rise or we will have to reduce benefits or increase the age of retirement.

Medicare has no such surplus. Rising medical costs, greater longevity and a time coming soon when there will be 2.1 workers for every retiree, down from the current 3.1, will force increases in taxpayer funding of medical costs for our elderly.

We have also overspent in other areas. This spending is well beyond our means given our anemic economic growth over the past decade. Unless we again become the innovation nation we once were, there’s coming soon a day of reckoning.

One group has taken this reality to heart. They are a non-partisan group of former statesmen, led by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, who were appointed by President Obama to come up with a plan that will get us on a sustainable path.

They must have done something right because Republicans and Democrats both reviled their recommendations. Simpson-Bowles told Congress what we know but don’t want to hear. Taxes will have to go up, loopholes will have to be closed and some of our favorite tax deductions will have to be curtailed for higher-income individuals. We will also have to reduce defense spending.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • ouellette.jpg Web doctor always gets it right

    I have access to the collected medical knowledge of all recorded history at my fingertips, columnist Steve Ouellette writes.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Airport projects can benefit local economy

    Using a local workforce keeps wages and spending in the community if it can be done in a cost-effective manner, according to columnist Colin Read.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gast_Richard.jpg Producers can recycle tubing

    Project allows maple-syrup makers to conveniently dispose of their used tubing in an environmentally friendly way, according to columnist Richard Gast.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg Easter with doubters and the 'nones'

    Should more pastors ask this blunt question: "Do you really believe Jesus was raised from the dead?" wonders religion columnist Terry Mattingly.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Canadiens are Canada's team

    The National Hockey League playoffs are underway, and for Canadiens fans, many of whom likely reside in the Montreal "suburb" of Plattsburgh, it is a time of hope and joy.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • little_mug.jpg There's no saw like an old saw Kaye and I laughed ourselves silly the other day as we tried to top each other with our own sayings from childhood, columnist Gordie Little writes.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Denenberg_Stu1.jpg Privacy concerns make a comeback

    There's a growing concern amongst the millennials, columnist Stu Denenberg writes.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • paul_grasso.jpg Several options exist for downtown

    Pedestrian mall just one idea that could be good for city's economic future, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Government can't create success on its own

    It takes a grass-roots community effort of people working together to assure future accomplishment, according to columnist Colin Read.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Farmers strive for sustainability

    Conserving the land and assuring long-term profitability are two of the key goals for farmers these days, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

Peter Black: Canadian Dispatch

Lois Clermont, Editor

Cornell Cooperative Extension
Richard Gast: Cornell Ag Extension

Bob Grady

Guest Columns
Peter Hagar: Cornell Ag Connection

Health Advice

Ray Johnson: Climate Science
Gordie Little: Small Talk

Terry Mattingly: On Religion

Steve Ouellette: You Had To Ask

Colin Read: Everybody's Business

Pinch of Time