If Congress does one thing well, it's fail and they have a knack for failing spectacularly.
The nation's elected representatives had an entire year to reach an agreement on the nation's fiscal future. Of course, they failed to rise to the occasion, waited until the last minute and didn't solve any of the problems they were elected to.
The fiscal cliff was scheduled to come in two waves. First, in higher tax rates. With their last-minute deal, Congress mostly averted that first wave. Income taxes will only increase on individuals who earn more than $400,000 per year and families with a combined income of $450,000. However, the fiscal cliff deal did not renew the temporary reduction in Social Security taxes. Those will increase from the current 4.2 percent back to 6.2 percent (pending new legislation).
The second wave of the fiscal cliff were automatic spending cuts to the federal budget but this deal halted those automatic cuts for at least two months. So much for being automatic. These cuts were agreed upon in a budget deal back in 2011 to extend the nation's debt ceiling. It marked a significant moment because Congress seemed to recognize they couldn't spend their way out of debt. But it was only a moment. Then Congressional reality set it. Politicians are allergic to budget cuts, even when the cuts are supposed to be automatic.
Here are some numbers. Currently, the United States is $16.4 trillion in debt. The fiscal cliff deal is projected to bring in $62 billion in new revenue from the income tax hike. These new tax increases don't come close to raising enough revenue to close the yearly deficits. They've run over a trillion dollars for each of the past four years.
Congress punted. Again. And their failure only ensures future generations will have to solve these problems by necessity not by choice.
The worst part of it all is that Congress created this crisis. So what does it say about these elected representatives if they can't solve the crisis they made? Obviously, not much.
During the 1940s, when America was engaged in World War II in both Europe and the Pacific, there were tales of Americans working together. Almost everyone was making sacrifices to ensure victory. Women worked in the factories making the heavy machinery needed to fight the war. That same kind of spirit is needed again -- the shared sacrifice for the good of the country to overcome the failures of the current Congress.
The parallels between then and now aren't exact, but one thing is similar: the future of the country just might be at stake.