All News & Blogs
Date published: 1/1/2013
WASHINGTON--Going over the "fiscal cliff" may seem irresponsible and self-destructive for the nation as a whole, but it's a politically logical, self-preserving step for many individual lawmakers.
They come from districts where ideological voters abhor tax hikes, or spending cuts, that any bipartisan compromise must include.
Many of these voters detest compromise itself, telling elected officials to stick to partisan ideals or be gone.
That's why the fiscal cliff is just one in a continuing string of wrenching, demoralizing impasses on tax-and-spending showdowns, which threaten the nation's economic recovery.
A breach of the fiscal cliff's midnight deadline became inevitable late Monday when House leaders said they couldn't keep waiting for the Senate to send a bill their way.
The House may reconvene in a day or two to vote on a White House-blessed deal to curtail the new package of tax hikes and spending cuts, which technically start with the new year. But it's painfully apparent that partisan warfare sent the government past a line that could alarm financial markets and further undermine faith in America's leaders, at home and abroad.
Meanwhile, the political realities that made a bigger solution impossible will not change any time soon.
That raises red flags for upcoming fiscal clashes, especially the need to raise the government's borrowing limit in a few months to avoid defaulting on federal debt.
Congress' repeated struggles are less bewildering when viewed not from a national perspective but through the local lens of typical lawmakers, especially in the House.
For the scores of representatives from solidly conservative districts--or solidly liberal ones--the only realistic way to lose the next election is by losing a primary contest to a harder-core partisan from the same party.
The notion of "being primaried" strikes more fear in many lawmakers' hearts than does the prospect of falling stock markets, pundits' outrage or a smudge on their national party's reputation.