Congress pulled the country back from the so called fiscal cliff by passing a bi-partisan settlement at 2am on New Year's Day.
Now, the real cliff looms, Republican Senator Johnny Isakson said Wednesday. The accountability cliff. He was speaking at a Legislative forum for Athens' state delegation, sponsored by the Athens Chamber of Commerce and the Athens Rotary Club.
Isakson was referring to the battle over raising the country's debt ceiling. With the country running a debt of $16 trillion, many elected officials are loathe to raise the debt ceiling. Sometime in mid-February or early March, experts believe the U.S. will have exhausted its borrowing authority and won't have money to pay its debts--on entitlements or on bonds. Many in Congress are firm in their resolve not to allow the ceiling to rise.
Here are the high points of what Isakson said:
Taxes: Everyone who makes less than $400,000 has the same tax rate as they did in 2012. What has changed is the payroll tax, which was eliminated as a stimulus measure in 2010. It will rise by 2 percent, returning to its former rate. The estate tax dropped to 40 percent, with a $5 million per person limit.
Isakson said the U.S. needs to change its territorial taxes so that people pay 7 percent instead of 35 percent. This would bring money home and eliminate the perceived need to use offshore accounts.
Social Security: For people born after 1943, the age for receiving payments changed to 66. It's liable to rise again, to 68 or even 70, for those who are children now, or their children. Isakson urged people to plan and prepare.
Guns: Assault weapons were banned in 1994, but that didn't do much good. The common thread linking the shootings at Virginia Tech, Aurora and Newtown is mental health, he said.. "The person that uses an instrument of death, not the instrument of death itself, is what kills people," Isakson said. A registry of mentally ill people might be in order, though he admits that mental health is a "sticky wicket."
He doesn't think that Congress is going to pass any bans on assault weapons in 2013.