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Despite the hopes of many throughout the world, America went straight over the fiscal cliff as the new year came in. The Bush tax cuts expired, and massive spending cuts were made, which could have taken the US back into recession, the effects of which would have been seen worldwide. Luckily, New Years Day was a holiday, and, at the last possible minute, the Democrats and Republicans managed to come to a deal that kept a degree of the tax cuts, while putting off the difficult decisions on public spending until later in the year. Therefore, crisis was narrowly averted, and we can rest safe with the knowledge that we came incredibly close to a renewed financial crisis based entirely on political point scoring.
The fiscal cliff was a crisis formed entirely from the inability of the Republican and Democratic parties to come to any sort of compromise. Any measure to increase taxes would be shot down immediately by the Republican representatives, with some having signed pledges to vote against any tax increases. On the other hand, any measure that significantly reduced government spending would be dismissed by Democrats. This entire situation was manufactured by the two parties, and in failing to address the situation until the last minute they have proven that the current political deadlock in the US simply isn’t working.
The two major parties were, essentially, playing a game of chicken with the American economy. Each party was attempting to give the impression that they would rather see the economy fail than introduce measures favourable to the other party, with the end result that they came close to catastrophe. Blinded by talk of raising taxes, the Republican representatives failed to consider the possibility that, by refusing to negotiate, taxes would automatically increase massively. On the other hand, a cynic might say that this situation was purposefully exploited by the Republicans, who can now make the statement that they voted for a tax cut instead of a tax increase.
One of the key elements to come out of the deal is a 2 month delay on any real decisions about public spending. This could be considered a victory for the democratic party, but really is simply yet another attempt to avoid conflict by kicking the can once again into the future. The deal had already been delayed from mid-2012 due to inaction on the part of both major parties, but even this delay was not enough time for the two groups to come to an agreement. Once again, difficult decisions have been delayed, until they come crashing down on the US government in February.
This whole situation is just one way in which the polarisation of American politics in recent years has stalled the political process. Political point scoring in the race for power has now become more important to the parties than the ability to enact change once in power. There is no collaboration between sides, and compromises are few and far between. This is evident in all major debates that occur in modern America, from debates over the financial crisis to those addressing gun control issues that have occurred throughout the past year.
American politics are stagnating, and need to be fixed. Collaboration and compromise are a vital part of the governmental process, and the way in which both sides simply demand of the other without offering any concessions is detrimental to the US and its citizens. In the UK, we have a political system that, although flawed in many senses, at least functions. Laws do get passed, even if they may not be popular. Things do happen. In the US, this is not so. It is safer for an American politician to hold an unrelenting stance in order to gain votes than it is for them to compromise, and actually make the hard decisions that government brings.