By Gene Hall
The inability of Americans to step away from breathing the rarified air of a “pure party line”—even for a minute, even to the pass the “fiscal cliff” legislation so vital to the nation—scares me. It should scare you. There doesn’t seem to be much compromise left in the body politic. That’s a shame, because both parties have more than their share of arrogance.
In all the fighting of the past few weeks, our lawmakers passed the deadline by one day and did manage to do a few good things. It would be nice if they could build on that.
The passage of the so-called “fiscal cliff” legislation adds certainty to tax policy, which is good business for America. The deficit was not addressed by Congress, and much work is still needed to get our fiscal house in order. I’m not looking forward to that conversation with my grandchildren in a few years, to answer the question: “Why did you do this to us, Paw Paw?” Most have concluded that we need to tax some more, and I won’t argue the point. I do know we’re going to have to spend less, a lot less. And so far, we are nowhere with that.
There is a little good news in the package according to Texas Farm Bureau President Kenneth Dierschke: “…restoration of the $5 million exemption level for the estate tax, which was in danger of falling to $1 million.”
This permanency and the fact that the estate tax is now indexed for inflation are positive for agriculture and small businesses. Most family farms can now be passed on to subsequent generations.
Extending the farm bill another few months stops the permanent farm law of 1949 from kicking in automatically, which would have created major price problems for agriculture and consumers. Dierschke say farmers would have preferred a new five-year farm bill, but the extension allows farmers, ranchers and their bankers to plan for the 2013 crop.
There’s an old story of a boy reaching into a jar for a snack of filberts. His hand was so full he could not withdraw it from the jar. Unwilling to part with a single nut, he stood there for a long time before he realized he could not have them all. This time, Congress and the President left a few filberts for the other guy. Next time, I hope they don’t decide to break the jar. It’s not easy, but it doesn’t have to be this hard!