Monday December 3, 2012

There is something worse than falling off the fiscal cliff in January -- reaching a bad deal in Washington to avoid falling off the fiscal cliff. Any deal must include tax increases for the wealthiest Americans and must not include de structive cuts to social programs. Massa chu setts’ Democratic congressional delegation appears united in holding out for a good deal.

House Republicans continue to resist tax hikes for the wealthy as if the November 6 elections had never happened. President Obama was re-elected for many reasons, one of which was his proposal to require the wealthy to pay more in taxes, as they did during the strong economic years of the Clinton presidency. The Senate remained in Demo cratic control and Democrats made gains in the House on the insistence that the deficit not be reduced on the backs of the middle class. House Speaker John Boeh ner speaks often about following "the will of the people," and here is a place to start.

Social Security should be left alone because it is not a problem. It does not contribute to the deficit and the Social Security Trust Fund is regarded as solvent for another two decades. Representative Richard Neal of Springfield, who will be the Berkshires’ congressman beginning in January, told The Boston Globe he would consider raising the eligibility age of Medicare by one month a year to reduce costs. This would be acceptable as part of a larger deal in which Republicans sign off on tax hikes. After November 6, Washing ton Republicans can no longer be allowed to pout until they get their way.

Republicans have proposed closing tax loopholes, but they need to get specific on plans that cannot in any case be a substitute for tax hikes. Vague promises, ideological rigidity, and slavish devotion to 1 percenters formed a recipe for Repub li can defeat at the polls last month, and the party must now put the nation first and work with Democrats on a compromise to end the current fiscal crisis. That must also be the working philosophy going forward.