Aiken party leaders, lawmakers dismayed by late “cliff” deal

  • Posted: Wednesday, January 2, 2013 11:39 p.m.
    UPDATED: Thursday, January 3, 2013 7:43 a.m.

The U.S. Congress’ last-minute deal Tuesday night may have halted the infamous “fiscal cliff,” but for now at least, it’s only been halted for two months.

That left Aiken County political party leaders and some state legislators frustrated for a variety of reasons.

“It seems all they’re doing is kicking the can and not solving the problem,” said K.T. Ruthven, Aiken County Republican Party executive state committeeman. “The partisanship kept going between the two parties. They (Republicans and Democrats) were not willing to compromise and resolve this. It’s just pushing the country further behind the eight-ball.”

Harold Crawford, chairman of the Aiken County Democratic Party, welcomed that the eventual compromise – such as it was – included an agreement to end a tax-rate extension for families making $450,000 or more.

“First of all, this should have been done a long time ago – a lot better without so much fanfare,” Crawford said. “It’s so partisan on both sides.”

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that financial markets throughout the world may be celebrating the measure that halted most scheduled tax increases and budget cuts in the U.S. However, that joy is expected to turn into resumed fears in this country and beyond, as the next battle over the so-called sequestration could result in massive spending cuts if the parties don’t deal directly with that issue in two months.

S.C. Rep. Roland Smith, R-Warrenville, agreed that House members and senators on both sides of the aisle should have accomplished a real deal several months ago.

“They didn’t have the courage to do what was needed to be cooperative and approach the fiscal deal,” Smith said. “There’s no reduction in spending, and until we stop spending like crazy, we’ll have to keep raising taxes. We have to bite the bullet to get things done.”

While it might appear that the late deal on Tuesday suggests that Congress members can work together, S.C. Rep. Bill Clyburn, D-Aiken, isn’t too optimistic.

“This will be played out politically and not in any good way,” he said. “They’re not helping the economy, because people are losing confidence.”

Clyburn anticipates a stalemate in another two months, resulting in only another short-term decision. While he’s skeptical of the Republicans as the debate continues, he admits that entitlements have to be on the table.

“It’s not going to be pretty, but we have to stop the bleeding,” he said.

In a press release on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., said he voted against the last-hour “cliff” action. Duncan represented most of Aiken County until reapportionment moved his District 2 out of the county.

“Instead of making our country more secure, this compromise places our country on even shakier fiscal ground by completely ignoring why we’re $16 trillion in debt,” said Duncan via email. “Not only does this bill fail to address spending, but it potentially undoes the spending cuts adopted as part of the debt ceiling compromise from 2011.”

That approach drew praise from S.C. Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken.

“All this does is prolong and forestall the issue – the real fiscal cliff,” he said. “The debt clock continues to tick, whether it’s one, two or three years. At this rate of continuing the national debt and spending at enormous levels, it will be a financial calamity in this country.”

People are going to have less to spend, Taylor said, with the Social Security payroll tax increasing by 50 percent. As long as the government continues to spend outrageously with money it doesn’t have, the nation is in for dreadful results, he said.

“This was never an issue with Democrats versus Republicans,” Taylor said. “This is an issue of common sense, and it seems to be lacking. Even the most naive person can’t spend more than he makes. I don’t understand how people have that thinking, just because they’re in government.”

Crawford was dismayed that too many House and Senate members wanted to raise their own salaries.

Even though Congress didn’t do so this time around, “Folks in our local districts are struggling to eke out a meager existence,” Crawford said. “They’re working hard to get by with less than $20,000 salaries.”

Although high earners did get their taxes increased, they still have too big a piece of the pie, Crawford said. People throughout the nation will see their Social Security payroll tax extensions end, resulting in a reduction in their wages.

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