Monday, April 23, 2018
Editorials

Inching their way back from the cliff

As the days tick down to the new year, Washington edges closer to the moment when taxes go up and spending is cut in such drastic fashion that the recovering economy could be thrown back into recession. With President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner talking and trading proposals, there is renewed hope that the president and Congress can find a way to avoid the "fiscal cliff." Boehner made a notable concession Friday by telling the president he could accept higher tax rates on incomes of over $1 million, and the two talked again Monday. Both the administration and Congress should be willing to bend a little.

Up until the change, Boehner had rejected a rise in tax rates as a way to raise $1 trillion in new revenue over 10 years. Instead, he recommended eliminating tax deductions, credits and loopholes — though refused to say which ones — or capping deductions at a set maximum. Many economists say there is no way to raise that much new revenue through these steps without eliminating or reducing middle-class tax deductions such as the home mortgage interest deduction.

Obama's approach would allow the Bush-era tax cuts to expire on incomes over $250,000 — the position the president took during the campaign. He would extend the Bush-era tax cuts on the middle class but allow the top two income tax rates of 35 percent and 33 percent to rise to what they were under President Bill Clinton, 39.6 percent and 36 percent. A majority of Americans support this, and Boehner can read the polls.

For a deal to happen, Democrats will have to accept some adjustments to the cost of Medicare and Medicaid. Otherwise, if both sides dig in, an estimated $520 billion in tax increases and $130 billion in spending cuts will occur automatically, with the average American seeing his or her tax bill rise by $3,446 in 2013, according to the Tax Policy Center. The trigger was put in place by Congress in 2011 as a budget-control measure. It was hoped the untenable spending cuts and taxes would spur both Republicans and Democrats to work out an agreement. They still may.

But this lurching from one artificial partisan crisis to the next cannot be the way Washington operates. The deal made between Obama and Boehner has to include provisions to avoid other foreseeable fights. For instance, it must raise the debt ceiling — otherwise the country won't be able to pay its bills by sometime early next year. Boehner is offering a one-year reprieve. Why not make it longer? And now is not the time to let the temporary payroll tax cut of 2 percent expire or to eliminate federal emergency unemployment benefits. These measures keep money pumping into the economy and cushion the lingering effects of the recession.

Boehner's acceptance of some tax rate rise demonstrates that there is some give-and-take going on. His proposal of raising tax rates on incomes over $1 million would raise an estimated $269 billion over 10 years. That would be a start, and it is a signal to keep talking.

Comments

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18