Seeming a bit surprised at the extent of their victory, a few liberal members of Congress were candid enough to admit the American people were shortchanged on New Year's Day.
"This is not a big, bold victory," House of Representatives Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., admitted last week. Still, he assured both his Democrat and Republican colleagues, the "fiscal cliff" deal was as good as it was going to get.
Clearly, President Obama and liberal lawmakers outmaneuvered conservatives. They held the public relations high ground and used it to gain yet another big-government, big-tax victory.
Many members of the public appeared to understand only half the ramifications of the so-called fiscal cliff. That is, they recognized that unless Congress acted, this year would bring major tax increases on virtually all taxpayers. In addition, it was the scheduled start of the "sequester," a set of automatic government spending cuts.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives agreed to a plan negotiated with the White House earlier this week. It avoided most tax increases on middle-class Americans - though there was an exception to even that. A 2 percent Social Security withholding tax break was allowed to expire, meaning everyone who takes home a paycheck will have less in it this year.
Still, some middle-class tax relief was left in place. The sequester was rescinded. But it was no victory. To the contrary, it amounted to a surrender by conservative lawmakers of both parties who understand the peril of tax hikes and failure to address the nation's $16.4 trillion national debt.
The measure approved by Congress gave Obama $620 billion in tax increases over a 10-year period. Some of that will make it more difficult for small businesses to create jobs. In exchange, it was hoped - briefly - Obama and liberal lawmakers would agree to cuts in federal spending. They did not. Virtually no spending cuts are included in the fiscal cliff resolution. All consideration of getting the nation's fiscal house in order was kicked down the road, allegedly for later this year.
How many times over how many years have we heard that? Higher taxes. More spending. Bigger government. That's what we got on New Year's Day. Happy New Year? Not with that kind of continuing failure in Washington.