FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
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Fiscal policy brinkmanship continues

We have the feeling that, fiscally speaking, 2013 will be like “Groundhog Day,” the movie. We’ll just keep living brinkmanship over and over.

The late-night congressional voting that averted the notorious fiscal cliff kept us from lurching over the side, but we are by no means on safe ground.

The New Year’s Day agreement raises taxes on individuals earning more than $400,000 and couples earning more than $450,000 a year and preserves the Bush-era tax cuts for everyone else. But paychecks will be slimmer this year; the employee share of the payroll tax increases to 6.2 percent from 4.2 percent. As a result of last-minute congressional shenanigans, tax planning and filing this year will be even more of a headache. And don’t expect a timely refund.

We have no illusions that Congress is now functional or that our fiscal house is in order.

Congress still must figure out spending priorities. Does defense trump everything else? Will Medicaid be cut? Is the age for qualifying for Social Security and Medicare benefits rising? We don’t know.

After his short-term victory on taxes, what will President Barack Obama accomplish in his second term? New gun control measures? Immigration reform? Serious changes to the tax code? We can’t even guess.

Politics is supposed to be the art, yes, art, of compromise. We are far shy of that standard.

Polls tell us public approval of the 112th Congress is 11 percent. We wonder who those people are and of what they approve. The 113th Congress now takes over; our expectations are low.

Scripps Howard News Service

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