Massie's first leadership test; heed business worries on fiscal cliff

Thomas Massie was sworn into Congress Tuesday, only a week after he convincingly defeated his Democratic opponent to represent Kentucky's 4th Congressional District in Northern Kentucky.

Former Rep. Geoff Davis had resigned earlier this year, leaving a vacant seat to be filled immediately after the election results were final.

Massie campaigned as an entrepreneur who knows what it takes to start businesses and create jobs.

Running against an attorney, he said Congress needed more businessmen and fewer lawyers. "Our tax system needs to promote economic growth, not punish it," he said in campaign materials.

His quick ascension to office puts Massie right in the thick of things as Congress and President Barack Obama pick up their long-unfinished work on the federal budget.

For most of the last two years, the debate has been stuck in an ideological tug-of-war pitting tax increases against spending cuts, particularly of so-called entitlement programs. In lieu of a solution last year, Republicans in Congress agreed to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for severe automatic spending cuts and tax increases in January 2013, if no new budget agreement is reached.

Candidate Massie endorsed spending cuts as the path to fiscal solvency. Even since the election, he's expressed a willingness to drive off the fiscal cliff that looms in January.

Now, with the adrenalin of the campaign ebbing, businessman and Congressman Massie should listen to what the nation's leading business people are saying about clinging to ideological strongholds while ignoring economic reality.

A host of business leaders participating in a Wall Street Journal CEO Council conference Tuesday, the day Massie was sworn in, warned about the consequences of brinksmanship driving the federal government over the cliff.

Investor and consumer uncertainty, they say, risk pushing the economy back into a recession. Most have contingency plans to lay off employees if no agreement is reached.

"The greatest stimulus is certainty," Putman Investments CEO Robert Reynolds told the Journal. "Here you are, Nov. 13, and you don't know what your tax rate is next year, you don't necessarily know what you're going to be paying in health care, capital gains, dividends. They all have a tremendous impact on the way people act."

Only compromise will yield certainty through some combination of tax increases and spending cuts. We hope Massie will listen to the business leaders he extolled as a candidate and vote for that greatest stimulus.