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Paul Jenkins: We better wake up in time to wake up our leaders

Paul Jenkins

Americans are schnooks. We tolerate Barack Obama and Congress, and instead of marching on Washington, D.C., with blazing torches and pitchforks after years of shakedowns, we seem just tickled pink they do not pants us behind the gym.

Oh, we howl. We whine. We scream for balanced budgets and spending cuts. We point to the Constitution and common sense but we are $16 trillion in the red and sinking deeper by more than $1 trillion a year. With Democrats at the helm, we just keep spending.

We are beyond hoping for reasoned leadership. We might wonder why we do not elect statesmen anymore. Or question why Obama, the only person in Washington certain not to run again and immune to political barbs, is not assuming a leadership role. Why, for instance, did he bother with grandstanding on "Meet the Press" instead of negotiating with congressional leaders as we dangled over the so-called "fiscal cliff"?

In the end, the GOP caved and Congress sold out Americans -- and not just the "rich." Obama got what he wanted: more taxes; more government. The Congressional Budget Office says the measure will tack on $4 trillion to the horrific national debt over the next decade. That's a best-case estimate.

When the dust settles, because Congress and Obama are unable, even unwilling, to cut government spending or contain annual deficits, the nation will have fewer jobs, less investment and stunted profits. We'll be blessed with more regulation and increased taxes to feed the 1,300 government agencies and commissions.

The Senate measure sent to the House on Tuesday was a 154-page document, by some accounts, and was approved in only minutes. It makes you recall Nancy Pelosi's "We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it" Obamacare moment.

The sham was touted as a middle class tax cut. What a crock. It extended the Bush-era tax cuts permanently for those making less than $400,000 but the temporary 2-percentage-point Social Security payroll tax cut -- worth $1,000 a year to a worker making $50,000 -- is going back into effect.

The "tax cut" contained nothing to brighten the nation's financial picture -- no process to cut government size, no national debt limit, no fix for the umpteen-zillion-page tax code, which might as well be written in Klingon. On top of that, nothing was done about the deep, automatic spending cuts -- sequestration -- that were to go into effect last week and potentially could cost 2 million jobs nationwide, or more than 10,000 in Alaska. The cuts -- in place because Congress failed to do its job -- were delayed for two months.

The measure is a Christmas tree festooned with year-long tax credits to ensure "huge annual lobbying fees and political contributions," David Malpass wrote in The Wall Street Journal. It has $76 billion in special-interest tax credits for General Electric, Goldman Sachs, Hollywood and even Captain Morgan rum. Wind turbine and biotech companies, Nascar and biodiesel makers all made out too.

But what about us? Despite all the tax-cut jibberish, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, says 77 percent of American households will see increased taxes. Households with incomes between $40,000 and $50,000 will face an average tax hike of $579 in 2013. Households making between $50,000 and $75,000? About $800. The wealthier -- with incomes over $500,000 -- will get hammered. Those making between $500,000 and $1 million will pay on average $15,055 more. Those making more than $1 million? An average of $171,330.

The fighting in Washington, D.C., is far from over. There are new deadlines looming and new battles brewing. First, the debt-limit increase, within weeks. Watch for Obama to try to do it without Congress. Then the March 1 automatic sequester and a second sequester on March 27, and the March 30 government spending authority expiration. The panic only gets worse.

Americans should be worried. How long can we rack up trillion-dollar-plus deficits? What will happen when our economy succumbs to government overreach or our currency crashes and the world economy implodes?

This is not a Republican problem or a Democrat problem. It is a stupidity problem.

We should be growing weary of having to hold on to our pants.

Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com.


By PAUL JENKINS
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