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The fiscal cliff debate in the United States has been ongoing for some time now with fears expressed over the country’s plunge into recession. An interesting part in this debate is the relationship between the political and economic interests. The fears of a fiscal cliff emerged when the country’s legislative body, the Congress refused to raise the debt ceiling of the country beyond the limit of $16.4 trillion to allow the government to make more borrowing. Apparently, the government borrowing had hit the debt limit and needed the approval of the Congress. The result was a series of legislations including spending cuts through sequestration and tax increase. This ultimately impacts on the ability of the citizens to transact their businesses in almost all sectors of their lives. This paper analyzed three articles published in The New York Times between January 22 and February 19, 2013on the issue of the fiscal cliff.
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The main argument by Bornstein in the article When Paying It Forward Pays Us Back published in the New York Times is that the government’s measures of spending cuts and tax increases to avert the fiscal cliff are out of place and in bad faith in light of the imminent effects to the businesses. That is, no political standoff like the fiscal cliff should distort the relationship between social programs and society at large. He argues that “often, to save money you need to change systems, or add new functions, not just cut things.” This assumption is premised on the fact that a good number of programs such as Transitional Care Model for health care have worked well with insurmountable benefits to the older patients coming from hospitals.
The author’s use of the Transitional Care Model is timely and on point and gives an insight in how good programs can be implemented at the national level. Evidently, this is completely a different case in the debate over the imminent fiscal cliff with various causative factors, including refusal by the legislators to raise the debt ceiling. In a political economy like in the United States, policies from different factions must be aligned to have an agreeable point and be implemented in the interest of the larger society. It is obvious that on a short term basis, implementing the spending cuts and tax increase will hurt the economy and the power of consumers to purchase products. However, in the bigger picture, it will avert a situation that could hurt the entire country. Bornstein explains that the society has a role in helping and contributing to the government’s effort in building an economically and politically secure country.
According to Machiavelli’s view, the society can become loyal and serve the country if the country’s leaders are willing to protect them from economic tragedies like the fiscal cliff. He argues that, “to keep the people quiet and without loss to the state, they always have the means of giving work to the community in those labors that are the life and strength of the city, and on the pursuit of which the people are supported; they also hold military exercises in repute, and moreover have many ordinances to uphold them”. He thus implies that the society is inherently equipped with the means of supporting the State. Machiavelli could have, therefore, not agreed with Bornstein’s opinion on the idea of spending cuts and tax increases because the measures are meant to protect the society from adverse effects of a country in recession. It is also the duty of the society to provide the means of protecting their city through their labor. Moreover, the citizens have a responsibility to contribute to the government’s program by accepting to receive less in and pay more in taxation as a tentative measure of preventing a catastrophic occurrence in the country’s economy.
On the other hand, from the heading of the article Tax law has become a moving target published by the New York Times by De Aenlle Conrad, it is evident that the author thinks that the current tax laws aim at benefiting the government. According to the author, taxation put on individuals and organizations is an ancient practice which is meant to enable the government to provide essential services like health and education to the people. He argues that taxation in its very essence cannot be aimed at killing small businesses in the country. Rather, it is from the business that the government aims to get revenues in the form of tax. This is stressed by Polanyi who notes that, every citizen ought to give up their natural rights so as to gain right to protection. Polanyi thus argues, “But the balance-of-power system, as we have seen, could not by itself ensure peace. This was done by international finance, the very existence of which embodied the principle of the new dependence of trade upon peace”. According to Polanyi, small businesses have a right to lower taxes. Indeed it is their right not to pay any taxes at all, but they will require protection from the state; thus, the state has the right to tax them and more especially in dangerous times like when the country is faced with the danger of recession and war.
However, Conrad’s assumptions on the effects of taxation on business are informed by a few small businesses which do not represent a substantial percentage of the business community in the country. Clearly, if an individual small business is looked at in isolation, especially in terms of the effects of taxation as a result of increased taxation by the government, the effects will be propounded in nature. However, things would change if the larger picture of the entire country is taken into consideration in this the analysis. In line with what Hobbes refers to as a sovereign power, the legislative agents in the government have the power to implement taxation policies in the best interest of the public even if such measures are going to affect individual persons or isolated organizations.
Finally, the article Rocky road to reforming immigration published in The New York Times by Hunta Albert highlights the current battle between Republicans and the Democrats on the emotive issues of immigration. It also explains how illegal immigrants contribute to the current economic situation in the country. It identifies the battleground set in the Congress where the Democrats want to pass laws that will support immigration; something that the Republicans are silently but vehemently opposed. However, this is not coming out as clear; thanks to the historical problems that Hispanics, who form the largest percentage of immigrants, have had with the right wing candidates in the Republican Party. They have on many occasions voted against the party.
The author’s analysis in agreement with the country’s constitutional right to protect its borders from illegal immigrants. However, it is not plausible to close the boundaries forever, especially given that illegal immigrants form formidable human resources in economic sectors like agriculture. On the other hand, the opponents of favorable immigration policies argue that the immigrants consume what they contribute to the economy and, therefore, are still unwelcomed intruders in the country. In view of John Locke’s concept, the presence of the immigrants in the country is an expression of a need for protection and would not mind to establish a social contract with the government of the United States. This is if it agreed to protect them from the conditions that made them leave their countries. As such, immigrants are more than willing to surrender their natural rights to remain in the country, prohibitive immigration laws notwithstanding.
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