After attending the Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative legislative breakfast in Estherville Friday morning, U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Kiron) made a brief stop in Spencer to discuss the approaching fiscal cliff and his concerns about the direction of the country.
So will America fall off the cliff on Dec. 31?
He added, "I don't believe the President fears going off the fiscal cliff and so he's going to be very difficult to negotiate with. I'd say there's an 80 or 90 percent chance they will bring some proposal to Congress and I'd say it's 50-50 if it will pass."
The fiscal cliff is linked directly to the end of the Bush-era tax cuts, which are set to expire after the final day of 2012.
"Neither the President nor the House negotiators are talking about spending cuts," King complained. "The end of the Bush tax brackets means an automatic increase in every bracket."
He continued, "I'm troubled by an estate tax increase that looms. It's going to go from a $5 million exemption and 35 percent tax rate on the balance to a $1 million exemption and 55 percent on the balance. That will destroy the transition of family businesses, that includes farms."
So where does the Congressman see things going?
"Not much is very predictable. We'll keep slugging it out until we have a deal," King said. " ... The business world is different than the political world. ... In politics there's not a lot of urgency to get things done. Because there is a deadline, because there is a cliff, they're going to have to have an agreement to bring to Congress."
Traditionally, King said the Congress dismisses the week before Christmas so legislators can return to their home districts.
"I've been told we're going to be in Washington that week. That tells me we're not going to get an agreement until that week," King said, adding, "And I don't know if it's going to pass if we do."
King pointed to two elements he believes to be key to solving America's financial challenges.
"We need a balanced budget amendment in the U.S. Constitution. There's no movement towards that," King said.
The Kiron native said he's asked, "When do we get to balance the budget?"
He provided the answer he's received: "We don't."
"Why are we negotiating the fiscal cliff when balancing the budget isn't part of the equation?" King asked rhetorically.
He also said the country needs severe spending cuts.
"This President will spend all of the money he can get his hands on. He believes the solution to our economic problem is to borrow and spend," King suggested.
But he admitted that seems to be the direction the country wants to take in light of President Barack Obama's re-election.
"It was a broad philosophical decision America made. It voted for more dependency," King said. "They want the government to do more for them with somebody else's money."
The Iowa Fourth Congressional District representative admitted that mentality will make his job tougher, but he will continue to forge ahead.
"We must go forward and push this country in the right direction. We're going to see if we can carry Iowa values to the rest of America," King said.
He added, "Part of my job over the next couple of years is to articulate a direction for this country that gets our budget to balance, pays down and off our national debt, strengthens our families and restores our work ethic."