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'Deal' represents the worse of Washington

| Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, 7:34 p.m.

Everything that everyone loathes about Washington was present in the “fiscal cliff” bill just passed by Congress. It is 153 pages long; most members probably hadn't read all of it before voting on it; it was delivered in the middle of the night; it was loaded with pork — the mother's milk (to mix a metaphor) of politicians; and while the country is already swamped with massive debt, it contains massive giveaways to satisfy interest groups and campaign contributors.

Did I mention the bill raises taxes on top of the coming ObamaCare taxes, but does nothing — nothing — to address the debt problem?

As with previous Congresses, the 112th (again) delayed the debt issue for two months and the 113th will have to face it, along with what to do about the debt ceiling. Only expletives that can't be printed in a family newspaper accurately characterize this bunch.

This “fiscal cliff” was a construct created by Congress. The additional revenue from productive businesses and individuals earning more than $400,000, and couples making $450,000, won't put more than the tiniest dent in the deficit and does nothing about the $16 trillion debt. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the ratio of new taxes to spending cuts is 41 to 1. This assumes the cuts actually materialize, which is unlikely.

We've seen it all before. Democrats play this game more effectively than a nimble-handed magician. According to Americans for Tax Reform, congressional Democrats in 1982 promised President Reagan “$3 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes.” Reagan agreed. He got the tax hikes immediately — and had his political pocket picked when Democrats never came through with the spending cuts.

Democrats run this play so often that you would think by now Republicans might have devised a better defense. But just like the smear that Republicans lack compassion for the poor because they oppose increasing federal programs that don't actually help the poor, Republicans get trapped into voting to increase taxes in exchange for more empty promises to cut spending — eventually. And the country loses.

Conservatives sent a large number of tea party members to the House in the 2010 election, hoping to fix government. It hasn't worked because the political culture there has been contaminated by an untreatable virus, and even those with the best intentions soon acquire the infection.

Eighty-five Republicans voted for the monstrous bill (151 stood on principle and voted against it) because their leaders said that if they didn't, it would hurt the party's chances in the next election. One didn't have to be in the room to “hear” what was said because it's always the same: Give up your principles because the next election is paramount. And after the next election and the one after it, nothing changes.

The country should make up its mind. Do we want a government that lives within the boundaries of the Constitution — limited, financially stable and spending only on what the Constitution says it should — or do we want a nation whose initials should be changed to ATM, dispensing goodies to any and all without regard to the financial health and welfare of this and future generations?

Passage of this bill seems to indicate the choice has been made and ATM has won. It is a sorry affair for which we, and future generations, will be sorry, indeed.

Cal Thomas is a columnist for USA Today.

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