Fiscal Cliff Negotiations Bring Nation Closer to the Brink

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Either the “fiscal cliff” negotiations between the White House and Congress are going absolutely nowhere, or the news coverage of the negotiations is completely lacking in substance because once again, today’s news, just like yesterday’s, is the same: No deal.

But probably the most relevant piece of information about the fiscal cliff came early on in our coverage, when a Washington insider said weeks ago that nothing will happen until the last week or so, when both sides are pushed up against the wall and have no choice but to find a compromise.

As he has been doing all along President Obama is once again taking his case to the public, today scheduled to hold a conference call with mayors and community leaders, to tell them how his debt reduction plan includes higher taxes on the wealthy as well as budget cuts.

The meeting topic was described by the White House as “the actions we need to take to keep our economy growing, prevent an income tax increase on middle class families and find a balanced approach to reduce our deficit.”

And as usual, House Speaker John Boehner is taking his case to the media, bashing the White House for not being serious about a deal, but leaving out the fact that his side also is unwilling to budge on its refusal to raise taxes on the wealthy. This week, the Boehner team is focusing its public comments on whether Obama will make cuts in entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

“The longer the White House slow-walks this process, the closer our economy gets to the fiscal cliff,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.

Here’s some more bad news for Boehner: A Washington Post-ABC News poll released today shows that voters are not pleased with Boehner’s fiscal cliff management—a paltry 25 percent of voters approve of the Ohio Republican’s handling of budget negotiations, compared with 49 percent who approve of President Obama’s. Moreover,  Obama gets 79 percent approval from Democratic voters, while Boehner gets just 39 percent approval from Republicans. He gets lower marks from moderates than from “very conservative” Republicans.

What this seems to be saying is, from the public’s standpoint the Republicans should just give the president what he wants and get out of the way.

The fiscal cliff tsunami that could take $2,000-3,000 out of the pockets of the average American is a confluence of the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, the expiration of President Obama‘s 2 percent payroll tax cut, and a huge cut in government spending, all set to go into effect at the end of the year and which would take a combined $800 billion or so out of the U.S. economy at a time when the nation is just recovering from the Great Recession.

Unfortunately, as soon as we get done with the fiscal cliff, we will be back to the debt ceiling debate. The GOP has warned that they are not going to let Obama raise the ceiling again without prior approval from them—which means a massive mess is in the making, just like we had in 2011 when the two sides nearly shut down the government.

“I will not play that game,” President Obama said about the debt ceiling warning, “because we’ve got to break that habit before it starts.”

“Republicans know that they have the debt ceiling that’s coming up right around the corner and the leverage is going to shift as soon as we get beyond this (fiscal cliff) issue,” said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, a Republican who agrees with the president’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthy.

President Ronald Reagan raised the debt limit 18 times, President George H. W. Bush raised it four times, Bill Clinton four times, the younger Bush seven times and Obama four times—so far.

Yet Reagan remains a champion for a generation of fiscally conservative Republicans.

Explain that. I dare you.

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