The fiscal cliff vote
As Congress moved late Tuesday to avoid falling over the so-called fiscal cliff, Utah's Sen. Orrin Hatch was part of the solution. Every other member of the Utah congressional delegation was part of the problem.
Sen. Mike Lee was one of only eight members of the upper chamber to vote against the last-minute deal to head off a planned combination of tax hikes and spending cuts that threatened to push the American economy back into recession. And all three of the state's House members Republicans Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop and Democrat Jim Matheson were also on the losing side of a vote that was as necessary as it was unsatisfying for politicos, experts and citizens of every ideological stripe.
The year-end deadline for the expiration of President George W. Bush's tax cuts was deliberately combined with a trigger for huge spending cuts, called "the sequester." The idea was to so focus the concentration of Congress and the White House as to force them into a long-term grand bargain that would somehow be the beginning of the end of deficit spending and huge federal debt.
The flaw in that thinking was that long-term deficit reduction of any size and short-term avoidance of a double-dip recession are, at this moment, conflicting goals. In fact, the kind of giant steps toward deficit reduction that would have resulted from going over the cliff crippling tax increases and giant spending cuts would actually have been unlikely to really cut the deficit in the long run because the resulting economic crash would have slashed personal and business incomes and thus tax revenues while increasing demand for government services.
The deal brokered mostly by Vice President Joe Biden and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was an example of reasonable men not letting the ideologically perfect be the enemy of the good. Or of the necessary.
In voting for the plan, while making regretful statements about the lost opportunity for long-term tax or fiscal reform, Hatch showed that he saw the reality of the situation. And his constituents may be left to hope that their senior senator is trying to regain his former status as a statesman who is capable of rising above partisan rancor when the greater good requires it.
The willingness shown by Chaffetz, Bishop and even Matheson to basically toss the American, and probably the global, economy back into a dive for the sake of political posturing is not the kind of Utah common sense for which they should want to be known.
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