The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 3, 2013

Congress must show courage

Daily Item

---- — Valley members of Congress Lou Barletta and Tom Marino supported the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 to prevent middle class taxes from going up.

They prevented a half-trillion-dollar blow to a barely recovering economy in the form of sweeping tax increases and automatic spending cuts.

Other good results came out of the measure, including an extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless for a year and elimination of a 27 percent cut in Medicare fees paid to doctors. The action also prevented a possible doubling of milk prices.

But in order to marginally raise tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent, Congress and the president boxed their votes into a package that appeared to rescue the middle class. The final vote of the 112th Congress was to avoid an utterly contrived trigger they had created to force themselves into a corner of false choices.

In the context of our spending problems, all the delay, drama and friction associated with the New Year's Day episode produced only marginal gains, a fact that is widely expected to surface again in barely more than a month when Washington confronts the debt limit.

The balance sheet issues, stated in the billions and trillions of dollars over 10 years, are too big for most citizens to comprehend. We can, however, understand the dynamics of decisions that will lead to a solution and our role in making them happen.

We are asking members of Congress to say "no" to a range of intimidating and career-threatening interest groups.

Some, like the tea party movement and Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledging Americans for Tax Reform, are ideological facades that will corrode from the inside or crumble in the face of necessity, though perhaps not in a timely fashion.

Other, more substantial organizations, like the AARP, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a collection of health and medical lobbies, claim to represent many of us -- although we don't always know it if we are members by virtue of consumption, demographics or habit.

Our role, on behalf of our children and grandchildren, is to make sure Congress has our permission to govern wisely, to say "no' to the intimidators and "yes" to future generations.

Our representatives face choices fraught with disappointment and risk. For that, they need courage. We can supply it. Let Congress know you want a better life for the kids.