The most infuriating part of the recent fiscal cliff crisis is that the whole construct was phony. The automatic spending cuts slated for Jan. 1 were just a threat devised by Congress to force itself to reduce the deficit. The tax hike set to take effect the same day was the result of an earlier ploy in which Congress had written the Bush tax cuts to “expire” after 10 years, thus masking the steep cost of making them permanent.
The cliff was averted. But the debt-ceiling crisis due to arrive in about six weeks is much worse, and, when you understand its purpose and history, that much more infuriating. It, too, is purely a creation of Congress. But it’s also the only example I know of where Congress actually solved a crisis, and then, for nakedly partisan purposes, abandoned the solution and ushered the crisis back in.