257-167: That was the finally tally of votes in the U.S. House of Representatives for and against (respectively) the not-so-final deal aimed at solving America’s financial woes. Happy New Year! Congress just gave itself a few more months to address a series of problems it has spent the last few months not solving.
Whatever happens the world is watching closely. News of the agreement to raise taxes on the wealthy while modestly cutting spending caused global stocks to rally this morning as the Australian Broadcast Corporation reports.
In crash, boom, bang terms that read a bit like a Marvel comic book, The Buenos Aires Herald lauded the deal as a victory for President Obama. The outcome, says The Herald, allows Obama to keep his campaign promise of raising taxes on the wealthy, while “his Republican antagonists were forced to vote against a core tenet of their anti-conservative faith.”
Italics added by your correspondent. Lawmakers? Democratically elected politicians? Nope: antagonists.
In more measured terms, Al Jazeera smartly points out what the bill does not do:
Supporters of the bill in both parties expressed regret that the bill was narrowly drawn, and fell far short of a sweeping plan that combined tax changes and spending cuts to reduce federal deficits….For all the struggle involved in the legislation, even its passage would merely clear the way for another round of controversy about the nation’s borrowing authority almost as soon as the new Congress convenes.
And for a grounded, pragmatic, German perspective, Der Spiegel put together a round-up of ideas from both sides of Germany’s political spectrum. Die Welt, a conservative daily, criticizes Congress’ inability to address spending on entitlement programs:
Essentially, America is more European than either Europeans or Americans think. Across the Atlantic, the economic crisis has opened up long-term structural deficits. And here too, the same phenomenon is emerging: In the postmodern Western democracies, the desire of citizens to receive social benefits is far more pronounced than their willingness to finance them with higher taxes.
Germany’s liberal press was likewise unimpressed, although for differing reasons. The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung says:
Sure, Obama managed to save unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed and avoided cuts to social and health benefits for the time being with the fiscal cliff compromise. But the ultimate decision over the cuts is far from being made. A year of endless negotiations over the debt ceiling and the unresolved budget issues awaits. The still fiscally conservative and resolute Republicans remain pitted against the still hesitant president, who remains hopeful of bipartisan cooperation. But even if Obama is now finally determined to fight their obsession with spending cuts, he’ll still have to adjust to governing with less money soon.
And if you think the incoming Congress will use this bitter feud as a lesson for how not to approach other legislative issues in the coming year, think again, says France24. The long, ugly and not very productive battle to avert the fiscal cliff “was also a signal that Obama, despite a thumping re-election win in November, may find it tough to achieve second term legislative goals that include immigration reform, clean energy legislation and gun control.”