All across America, people celebrated the end of 2012, the beginning of 2013, the love of friends and family, and the continuation of our world despite some presumably dire predictions by an ancient people; all the while, Americans with incomes between $250,000 - $450,000 popped their corks for a completely different reason: the aversion of the fiscal cliff and the preservation of the Bush-era tax cuts for their income brackets. And interestingly enough, we all will be paying more in payroll taxes. Specifically: payroll taxes for the past two years have been at 4.2% and will now rise to the customary 6.2%.
Alas, the fiscal cliff is averted (sort of) and the can is kicked down the road to be dealt with another day. Read this review from NPR of yesterday's (early this morning's? when did this happen?) voting in the House and the New Year's Day passage of the deal in the Senate. In the end, it was not Obama and Boenher that brokered this compromise, but McConnell and Biden. (Another pairing of the turtle and the hare.) But many on both sides of the debate are not happy with this outcome, and Boehner had some choice words for Sen Majority Leader Harry Reid, while the House is looking (especially) foolish in its handling of the fiscal cliff crisis. Additionally, as if they wanted to verify their status as a fortress of ineptitude, the House declined to vote on the Sandy Relief Bill, which prompted sharp criticism from NJ Gov. (and 2016 presidential candidate) Chris Christie:
"There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner. This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. Natural disasters happen in red states and blue states and states with Democratic governors and Republican governors. We respond to innocent victims of natural disasters, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans. Or at least we did until last night. Last night, politics was placed before oaths to serve our citizens. For me, it was disappointing and disgusting to watch."
But moving forward to more important things! It is a new year, and with every new year comes our responsibility as Mormons to vote for the Mormon of the Year of 2012 over at Times and Seasons dot org. And seriously, I realize Mitt Romney didn't win the presidency, but he most certainly deserves Mormon of the Year, does he not? He should definitely beat out some band called "Neon Trees" anyway - especially when the first time I heard of them is when I saw them on the list of candidates.
Let's hope for a path forward this 2013 - and choices as easy as Mormon of the Year. We need to move past this fiscal edge of the cliff mess and onto some real important things. Otherwise, President Obama's second term will be one big fight over budgets and taxes and cliffs and nooks and crannies. Seriously, we are ready to move on.
Nothing like the back-and-forth, finger-pointing, and grand-standing bluster of John Boehner to throw water on any lingering post-election celebratory feeling. Yes, the congressional Republicans are the ultimate buzz-kill. And of course, once again, President Obama is proving himself perfectly diplomatic in the fiscal cliff negotiations. He is even doing campaign stops, which makes me suprisingly nostalgic for two months ago when the idea of moving forward seemed much more of a possiblity than it does right now. Also, the President is proposing real compromise (cuts in spending in addition to raising rates on the wealthiest of Americans) while the Republicans are offering a vague proposal to close tax loopholes as a way to generate revenue from the upper 2% and to cut spending on who-knows-what.
A large majority of Americans agree with President Obama's balanced approach to dealing with the fiscal cliff. In fact, according to Kwame Holman from the PBS Newshour:
...new polls show Americans do want compromise, and it's the Democrats who hold the edge. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday shows a majority, 65 percent, say President Obama has a mandate on both increasing taxes on the wealthy and reducing federal spending.
A similar two-thirds are willing to accept tax increases or cuts in federal government programs to reach a deal. But while public support on taxes is overwhelming, opinion on proposed cuts is less so.
So according to these numbers, even Americans who may not have supported President Obama for reelection acknowledge that his balanced approach to looming fiscal cliff is the way to go. Presently, Obama's approval rating is at 55%, while the Republicans stand at a 32% approval rating. See the full report from the PBS Newshour's coverage for more complete "notes" of the going-ons of this debate.
But what does this say about the Republican's digging-their-heels approach to dealing with President Obama's agenda? Apparently, the Republicans view this as their means of getting what they want, while America sees it as more of the same. However, President Obama clearly has the upper hand. The Republicans run the risk of being the party that denied tax cuts to the majority of Americans in order to preserve tax breaks for the wealthy. And seriously, is $250,000 really the defining cut-off for the middle class? Many would disagree and believe that Obama's proposal of going back to the pre-Bush tax rates are not enough. According to Chris Weigant, "If we're going to tax the rich... then let's tax the rich." See his recommendations on Huffington Post.com.
So hope and change are once again side-stepped by Boehner's need to hold a daily press conference where he says the same thing over and over again with his gravely voice and his blunt affect: "It's clear the president is just not serious about cutting spending!" Meanwhile, America's economy is inching closer and closer to the edge of some cliff. (Probably in the Arizona desert somewhere.) Which causes me to think: while I hope we are spared a Thelma-and-Louise-type ending in 2012, (although there are a few things/people/Boehner I would like to see driven over a cliff,) maybe this is the end the Mayans where predicting? In lieu of that meteorite colliding with the earth, we get a tumble off of a fiscal cliff instead. This might be the time we should call our members of congress.
See this inforgraphic from DailyKos.com for more insight into the so-called fiscal cliff.
[caption id="attachment_2970" align="aligncenter" width="540"] Click on the Infographic to link to Daily Kos[/caption]
See Hannah's original post here.
When President Obama won the 2008 election, Seattle took to the streets. And I also joined the throngs of thousands of people who celebrated downtown and up on Capitol Hill. I remember feeling encouraged and excited to be a part of the community of Americans who had joined together to make the victory possible. I felt the energy and motivation of a newly called missionary - all I needed was the rallying call of the President to tell me what needed to be done, and I would be there. All of us Obama supporters seemed to be of the same mind; tell us what needs to be done - lead us into battle - and we will heed the call. However, clear direction never came. The recession hit like a hurricane, and President Obama became entangled in a health care battle with congress that left many of us wondering what our part in this fight might be.
This election, President Obama has the opportunity to continue to engage with his supporters and the electorate in ways that go beyond 2008. Obama for America is still sending emails - of course not in the volume we saw during the campaign when a request for donations hit the inbox several times a day. But this new campaign allows each of us to stay involved with the President's agenda during this lame duck session and also during his second term. We Mormons for Obama may see life as going "back to normal" after the frenzied election season. Conversations may shift away from the hope and change possible during this second term, and like 2008, we may be unsure of how we can continue to support President Obama. I am not sure I have all of the answers, but I do know that we can stay involved by responding to the President's requests for support (whether that is writing to congressional leaders or sharing our support for President Obama's policies on Facebook or on our blogs.)
Here are two articles from that discuss the ongoing effort by Obama for America to promote the President's positions on the upcoming fiscal cliff. The first if from TheHill.com; the second is from NPR.org
This is an excerpt from an email circulating from the Obama campaign this past week:
More than 1 million supporters took our survey last week, sharing feedback on their 2012 campaign experience and how they'd like to see us move forward. While we're still sorting through all of the responses, I wanted to share some initial results:
-- An overwhelming majority of survey respondents reported feeling welcomed and included, that their time was used effectively, and that there was a clear understanding of how their work directly helped re-elect President Obama.
-- Among those of you who volunteered at least a few hours, a majority went into a field office, though many of you got involved instead through the campaign's online tools such as Dashboard and the call tool.
-- About 1 in 10 survey respondents are interested in running for office at some point, using their organizing skills to continue fighting for real and lasting change. That level of political engagement is inspiring.
-- Almost half of all survey respondents forwarded campaign emails, and more than one-third communicated with friends on Facebook -- both great ways to pass along information about the President's positions and plans, as well as opportunities to get involved.
-- Nearly 80 percent of survey takers want to keep volunteering, primarily around the President's legislative agenda.
Also included was this quotation from a supporter in Texas: "Don't let the energy of the re-election slip through your fingers. This is a very powerful network of people." And this expresses how I felt in 2008 and how I feel now. Check out barackobama.com to learn about the issues and tasks at hand and the ways that we can be involved. I am hopeful that we Mormons can stay engaged in the change we hope to see in our country, whether on a national or local level. Let's continue to follow the words recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants to stay anxiously engaged in a good cause; let's continue to move forward.