Thursday, December 13, 2012
Whenever one turns on the television or radio these days or looks at a newspaper, one is hit in the face with stories of the "fiscal cliff," that totally phony fiscal crisis that was manufactured by Republicans during the last budget negotiations. They didn't want to face up to the work that needed to be done so they inserted a time bomb into the agreement. The time bomb would go off on January 1, 2013. Taxes would be raised on everybody and military and discretionary spending would be automatically cut by drastic amounts through a process called sequestration. This would be a forced austerity program. It would definitely cut the deficit, but it would probably also plunge the country's economy into a recession, because austerity at this particular time is the last thing we need.
Of course, the Republicans never intended for any of this to actually take effect. They were confident that they would win big in this year's election and then they could just rescind everything they had agreed to and make the Bush tax cuts permanent. All would be coming up roses in Republican-land.
A funny thing happened on the way to their rosy scenario. The president campaigned hard on the idea that taxes should be raised on the richest two percent of Americans, and polls found that some 60 percent of Americans agreed with him. Even many who didn't vote for him agreed with him. After all, he got 51 percent of the vote.
Not only did President Obama win big, but the Democrats gained seats in the Senate where their control is now strengthened and they gained seats in the House; not enough to take control of the House, it's true, but enough to make Republican control a lot more tenuous. Moreover, although they didn't take control of the House, they actually won the overall popular vote by more than one million votes. The only reason that Republicans were able to win more seats was because state legislatures controlled by Republicans had done severe gerrymandering to ensure that their candidates would have an electoral advantage.
So, the Republicans now face a strengthened president and a strengthened Democratic Party and they must negotiate with them to find a way off that "cliff" where they have parked themselves.
Except they are really not negotiating. They haven't put forward any viable plan. Their only offer seems to be make the Bush tax cuts permanent!
As for designating which cuts to the budget they want to see, they keep demanding that President Obama tell them what cuts he will accept. Obviously, they don't get the concept of "negotiations." They want the president to do all the work, to, in fact, negotiate with himself until he finally hits the magic formula that the Republicans are willing to accept. So far the president seems to be holding firm in his refusal to engage in such self-defeating behavior. He seems to be adopting the Michael Corleone method of response to such attempts at intimidation and blackmail.
I hope that President Obama will continue to be as resolute as Michael Corleone and to insist on the tax hikes that he campaigned on and which 51 percent of American voters said they wanted. To do otherwise would be a betrayal of those voters, a betrayal from which I doubt he could recover. It could doom his presidency to four years of failure.
If the Republicans refuse to offer a viable bargain, a much better option for Democrats and for the country would be to face that fiscal cliff and jump! I think we will know who to blame for any resulting hardships and it might finally bring the "party of No" to the table for some serious work on the economy. It seems that nothing else will.
Let's be brave, Democrats! Just like Thelma and Louise. Let's just hold hands and take that leap! It could be a "Merry Cliffmas" for us all!