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Editorial: Congress still has plenty of work to do on spending

Jan. 02, 2013 @ 11:15 PM

Most Americans feel Congress has done a pretty poor job of tackling the big financial problems facing our country, and this week's holiday drama seems unlikely to improve those perceptions.

The most recent Gallup Poll, taken just before Christmas, showed only 18 percent of respondents approved of Congressional work on the "fiscal cliff" -- the combination of expiring tax cuts and automatic budget reductions that promised to send the economy back into recession. The disappointment registered among both parties, with 16 percent of Republicans giving Congress a thumbs up, and about 19 percent of Democrats.

After many twists and turns throughout the holidays, Congress on New Year's Day approved a compromise to avert the immediate financial crisis, but left the big decisions on spending and the federal debt for another day. Even at the eleventh hour, it was hard for our leaders to agree on much more than just kicking the can down the road.

The package did extend most of the Bush-era tax cuts for individuals making less than $400,000 and married couples making less than $450,000 -- about 99 percent of Americans. For those above that threshold, their 35 percent income tax rate will increase to 39.6 percent.

However, most of the nation will pay more in Social Security payroll taxes, with the expiration of a 2 percent cut that has been in place since 2009. That savings had been about $1,000 a year to a worker making $50,000.

But the fight over deep spending cuts that were to have taken effect Wednesday was simply delayed.

Look for Round 2 in the next few months, when the government's ability to borrow money and provide financing for federal agency budgets expires. As Congress debates extending the debt ceiling, expect the call for cuts to be right back in the headlines.

Unfortunately, that inaction is not helping the economy. Many argue the uncertainty has been a drag on business and will continue to be.

"Nothing really has been fixed," economist Joseph LaVorgna told The Associated Press Tuesday. "There are much bigger philosophical issues that we aren't even addressing yet."

The need for a plan to significantly reduce the federal deficit is greater than ever.

We hope voters will urge their representatives to get back to the bargaining table as soon as possible.

Their work is not done.

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