Former Bradenton congressman gives crash course on fiscal cliff

nwilliams@bradenton.comDecember 7, 2012 

BRADENTON -- The culture in Washington, D.C., has changed.

No longer are elected officials willing to reach across the aisles to find a compromise for the nation's problems. Instead, representatives stick to the platforms of their political party.

To former congressman Dan Miller of Bradenton, there is a different breed of politicians in the nation's capital than when he was in office years ago.

"People from the middle are disappearing," he said.

And with the fiscal cliff -- the looming set of tax hikes and spending cuts set to start Jan. 1 -- fast approaching, he's glad he's no longer there.

"It's not going to be pretty," said Miller during a Manatee Tiger Bay luncheon inside the Pier 22 ballroom Thursday. "It's going to be a roller coaster."

For roughly an hour, Miller delivered an introductory session on the fiscal cliff for Tiger Bay members and visitors, a subject he will

teach at the University of South Florida in January.

Miller served in Washington from 1993 to 2003 and sat on several governmental committees, including Appropriations, Government Reform & Oversight, and Budget.

The fiscal cliff, as Miller explained, is forcing Congress to make a decision on the budget process of enforcing tax increases and spending cuts as Bush Administrations tax cuts expire.

"The fiscal problems in this country are immense, they're unsustainable and we've got to do something about it," he said. "We've got to address the tax system, discretionary spending, we have to address it all and Congress keeps putting it off."

The anticipation of cuts may have a drastic effect on Wall Street, Miller said.

A number of events that have attributed to the fiscal cliff, Miller said.

Over the past 10 years,the nation's defense spend-ing has doubled as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks, a pre-scription drug program pushed by Republicanswas never funded, anddue to an aging population, health costs have added to the nation's budget. On top of everything else, the recession hit.

Miller said reconciliation will probably be imple-mented into the budget in 2013 to instruct committees on how they are to operate with smaller budgets. Agriculture, he said, will have to be cut.

What's needed, Miller said, is compromise, but he doesn't see it happening. The Obama administration and House Speaker John Boehner remain locked in negotiations, especially over tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 annually. For a bill to pass in the House of Representatives, it requires 218 votes.

"There is a very liberal group of Democrats and a very conservative group of Republicans. There are not many very moderate Democrats left and not many very moderate Republicans left."

When asked how the nation's deficit grew to such catastrophic levels, Miller responded, "It's much easier to spend than to tax. We can't tax our way out of this problem. This is a bipartisan problem."

Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams.

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