Politics and religion take divergent paths to fiscal cliff
By Derek Joy
Much of the public is skeptical about why Congress went down to the wire before crafting and passing legislation that prevented the American economy from another potential disaster in going over the so-called fiscal cliff.
In a sort of 13th-hour action, the 113th Congress sent the bill to President Barack Obama on Jan. 1. He signed the bill that raises taxes on 2 percent of America’s wealthiest – individuals earning $400,000 and families earning $450,000 – to 39.6-percent, up from 35 percent.
And while Congress wrestled its way through political gamesmanship that turned to a game of Chicken, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (Dem., Dist 24), like other Congressional democrats, howled at Republicans, who seemed bent on preventing the tax increases on the wealthiest and cutting spending on programs for the poor and disenfranchised.
“Our country is facing a financial crises and so are millions of Americans,” said Wilson. “In any deal we must protect our already struggling students, seniors, middle class, working poor and unemployed. It is totally unacceptable that my constituents and the American people are being held hostage by narrow-minded, self serving political interests.
“It is unconscionable that some of my colleagues in Congress refuse to raise taxes, even for people whose income is over one million dollars, but will reduce benefits like Social Security and Medicare. These benefits help all American families, regardless of political and economic status,” added Wilson.
While an increased tax for the wealthy was finally legislated, an estimated $3.97 trillion will be added to the deficit over the next decade.
Some 30 million Americans who would have seen a tax increase without this legislation were granted relief. Unemployment benefits were also extended and a sizeable cut in Medicare payments to doctors were avoided.
However, a payroll deduction for Social Security taxes will increase from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent.
Meanwhile, Republicans are not focusing their attention to spending cuts. The next 60 to 100 days will tell the story of any additional Congressional actions.
Ironically, legislation avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff, like the Emancipation Proclamation 150 years ago, was signed into law and took effect on Jan. 1. Both could have very easily been resolved much sooner than they were.
As Congress toiled in the political process on Capitol Hill on New Year’s Day 2012, Mount Tabor M.B. Church in Liberty City held its 23rd Annual Emancipation Proclamation Service. Interestingly enough, the Emancipation Proclamation was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on Sept. 22, 1862, with a 100-day waiting period to take effect on Jan. 1, 1863, during the Civil War.
The Black church, which was so vital to the relief, comfort and the abolition of slavery as a legal practice, was criticized for its modern state in Mount Tabor’s New Year’s service.
Minister Wendell H. Paris, Jr., who head’s Mount Tabor’s HIV and AIDS Ministry and is campus minister for Florida Memorial University, in delivering the Emancipation Proclamation sermon, lamented how the Black church now focuses too much on material things.
“Now, our churches focus on the material wealth bestowed upon a few of us. We don’t focus enough on the less fortunate, on the spiritual wealth,” said Paris.
Hence it is as the Rev. Dr. Mack King Carter, the retired pastor of New Mount Olive Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, so frequently noted: “The church mirrors society.”