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Rishi Simha Headshot

Facing the Fiscal Cliff

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As Thanksgiving passes, I definitely have a lot for which to be thankful: my family, my friends, my health. In addition to these components of life which are often taken for granted, I am especially thankful to attend the University of Pennsylvania. Just a few short weeks ago at Penn, I had the privilege of listening to three transformative talks over the span of four days. Together, they have encouraged me to write this article.

First, at a rally in the Palestra, Bill Clinton stirred up my passion for engaging in the political process. Second, at an intimate talk in Irvine Auditorium, Arianna Huffington provided me with this platform for sharing my thoughts. Lastly, at a presentation in Huntsman Hall about the issues facing the next administration, Dr. Mark Duggan empowered me with knowledge for action about the major issues facing the next administration, with particular emphasis on the looming fiscal cliff.

The fiscal cliff is a term used more and more in the media, but few understand the gravity of the situation or the importance of Washington reaching an optimal solution. To summarize, the fiscal cliff refers to tax breaks and spending cuts which will expire on December 31st of this year. Examples of these policies include $39 billion in cuts to non-defense discretionary funding as well as increases in payroll taxes, capital gains taxation, and individual tax rates, to name a few.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, these changes would amount to a $607 billion reduction in the deficit. However, as the Wharton Public Policy Initiative points out, this immediate reduction in deficit will likely induce another recession as a result of reduced household incomes, undermined consumer and investor confidence, and increased unemployment. Further complicating matters is our national debt, which is projected to reach its ceiling of $16.4 trillion in February.

Although I don't have the answers, Congress and the President have access to all of the information needed to resolve the issue. Unlike the last time we were about to hit our debt ceiling, our leaders should not wait until the last minute to deal with the imminent fiscal cliff and debt ceiling. There is time now for leaders from both parties to sit down and develop tax and expenditure policies that are pro-growth and forward-looking and also mitigate the short-term consequences. With each citizen's share of the national debt already at $51,895.40, we can't afford to pass this burden to future generations.

Ultimately, more people need to research this issue and tell their representatives in D.C. to meet now and hammer out an effective solution. Given the current political climate, immediate action will require compromise. Our representatives know this, and we need to tell them that we value practical problem-solving over ideological extremism. We need to tell them that we value compromise. This issue isn't limited to red America or to blue America; it impacts the future of the entire United States of America.

At the end of the day, I will always be thankful and proud to be American -- to have the constitutionally guaranteed freedom to write this piece. And I'm hopeful in the democratic process working effectively to reach an optimal solution.