Take action now to avoid fiscal cliff

With yet another major credit agency threatening to downgrade America’s credit rating if Washington fails to resolve the nation’s fiscal crisis by year’s end, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that Congress and the President need to act immediately.

As I wrote in an op-ed for the Hill, the time to act is now. There is no more urgent priority facing this Congress than preventing the U.S. economy from going over the fiscal cliff on January 1, 2013. Failure to act will slow growth and kill jobs — at the worst possible time.

The chorus for immediate action gained 298 voices today. Associations including the International Franchise Association, the Retail Industry Leader’s Association, and the Financial Services Roundtable signed on to a letter that calls on lawmakers to stop using the upcoming elections as a delaying tactic.

In our letter, we urge Congress and the president to work together to immediately extend all of the 2001 and 2003 tax rates (including current marginal rates, dividend and capital gains rates, and estate tax relief) for all taxpayers; extend vital expired and expiring business tax provisions; provide alternative minimum tax (AMT) relief; and find spending cuts to replace a sequestration never intended to go into effect.

Short term action is not a substitute for long term fundamental fiscal reform. In addition to immediate action on the fiscal cliff, we also urge them to firmly commit to tackling comprehensive tax reform in the next Congress, and agree to develop a long term plan to address America’s excessive spending, particularly entitlement spending.

Sadly, some politicians appear to be sleepwalking toward the cliff’s edge. Hopefully, today’s letter and the threat of yet another hit to the U.S. credit rating will wake them up before they take the whole economy with them.

Bruce Josten is executive vice president of government affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. (BizTimes asked the organization to respond the fiscal cliff issue with a Milwaukee Biz Blog.)

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