The tax cut deal: Procrastination, not leadership
The first senator to state his opposition to a tax cut extension is, believe it or not, a Republican. Ohio senator George Voinovich, who is retiring after four decades in the Senate, said he would oppose any legislation that extends the so-called Bush tax cuts if it does not include an effort to also tackle reform, reports the Post's Felicia Sonmez. "As I look at my experience, I believe that if this thing goes through and we extend it, we will kick this thing down the road," Voinovich said in an interview. "It's completely irresponsible."
Whether or not you agree with Voinovich's stance--and there are few on either side of the aisle who don't think the tax cut could use some level of reform--his point that the decision essentially "kick[s] this thing down the road" is a good one. On Leadership panelist and top CEO coach Marshall Goldsmith made a similar one when he called "this latest 'realistic bipartisan compromise'" another "kick-the-can solution."
Extending the tax cuts may be the quick and easy way to "compromise," if it can be called that, in an effort to keep taxes lower amid a slow economy. But with a deadline looming for the cuts' expiration for nearly a decade, Voinovich is right: an extension is also procrastination, pure and simple. Leaving the thorniest problems for your successors to deal with may be politically expedient, but it's not leadership.
After all, Republicans who say that an extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans is essential amid a tough economy can hardly say they haven't known for three years now that a recession is going on, and that it might affect the outcome of the cuts' expiration. And Democrats who've had control of both chambers of Congress for two years and chose to postpone a vote on the tax cuts to the last minute have known for nearly 10 years the deadline was looming.
Extending the tax cuts on a temporary basis, as the deal announced Monday night would do, seems to presuppose a binary decision, one that assumes that the tax cuts must either be extended, temporarily or permanently, or stopped outright. It does not take into consideration the many ways in which Congress could have acted to reform the tax law so that the tax system could more sustainably help taxpayers amid a tough economy while not killing the deficit. This despite recent proposals from a bipartisan deficit commission--many of which are controversial, to be sure--that have suggested ways to do just that.
Even more important, it simply postpones one of the trickiest problems our nation faces--how to reduce the nation's ballooning deficit--with little if any attempt to create a more lasting and sustainable solution. Both Democrats and Republicans can say there wasn't time for such deliberations with a deadline looming, but both have also known this was coming for years. Then again, carefully planning for the future, as well as tackling the toughest problems first so your successors aren't left with them, takes leadership. And that's been in woefully short supply during the tax cut debate.
December 7, 2010; 12:04 PM ET |
Federal government leadership
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