AIADA Chairman: Are We Headed for a Fiscal Cliff?
Have you heard the term “fiscal cliff” lately? According to both political and financial analysts, it looks like the United States is headed for one at serious speed.
Here’s some background.
About a year ago, Congress passed the Budget Control Act of 2011, which established a bipartisan “supercommittee” tasked with addressing America’s debt ceiling crisis. They had until the end of November 2011 to pass a budget that would decrease the deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. Their inability to do so triggered another part of the act requiring sequestrations (massive budget cuts to both defense and domestic spending) slated to take effect Jan. 2. The cuts will total $110 billion per year until 2022 — not exactly chump change.
At the same time the sequestrations will take effect, the exemptions to the alternative minimum tax and the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts will both expire. In addition, the social security payroll tax cut will terminate and new taxes imposed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will be applied. Finally, the Death Tax will go from applying to estates of $5.1 million to $1 million and rise from a 35 percent rate to 55 percent.
That dangerous combination of tax hikes and spending cuts equals a fiscal cliff. Picture the America economy tipping over the edge like Wile E. Coyote, except with less foresight and personal responsibility.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has predicted that if the fiscal cliff is not avoided, economic growth in 2013 will diminish from 1.1 percent to 0.5 percent, unemployment will rise from 8.3 percent to 9.1 percent, and the chance of another recession will increase dramatically. If Congress and the president kick the can down the road, employing more patchwork extensions to avoid the cliff completely, the CBO says Americans can expect public debt to rise from 69 percent of the GDP in 2011 to 100 percent by 2021 and 190 percent by 2035.
This is not a simple problem with a simple answer. In the next few months Congress and the president need to earn their keep by making some tough decisions. Not extensions, not more delays and patches, but decisions. You know, those things us business owners make every day to remain operational.
The uncertainty that has existed since August of last year when the Budget Control Act passed, has had a chilling effect on our businesses and our economy. It prevents Americans from making long term plans or addressing potential financial challenges. We don’t know what the future holds because our elected officials seem content to set deadlines and consequences and then blow blithely by them at 60 mph.
Can you run a small business like that? No way. Can you run a country like that? Hopefully we won’t find out in 2013.
Ray Mungenast is chairman of the American International Automobile Dealers Association.