The Fiscal Cliff Is Entirely Man-Made – Not Inevitable

image of Speaker John Boehner after learning President Obama was re-elected
Speaker John Boehner after learning President Obama was re-elected

The day after the election House Speaker John Boehner said he and the other Republicans would work with the President as long as he gave the GOP everything it wanted rather than the GOP compromising with the President. The general conversation in the belt-way media was about the ‘fiscal cliff’. The so-called cliff was created when the Republicans refused to co-operate with the Democrats and basically kicked the can down the road until after the election. The results of the election was clear. Any resolution to the ‘cliff’ will have to be based on the President’s plan, NOT the GOP’s plan.

In his first post-election press conference, a couple of hours before the President’s statement, Boehner also indicated his willingness to compromise — though he reiterated Republican opposition to raising tax rates. “On Wednesday, I outlined a responsible path forward to avert the fiscal cliff without raising tax rates,” Boehner said.

“There is no mandate for raising tax rates on the American people,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said in a Wednesday statement. “There is a mandate for avoiding the fiscal cliff and finding real solutions so we can make life work for people again.”

Obama did leave modest room for negotiations. “I’m not going to ask students and seniors and middle class families to pay down the entire deficit while people like me making over $250,000 aren’t asked to pay a dime more in taxes,” he said. 

Obama To Boehner: Higher Taxes On The Wealthy Or The Bush Tax Cuts Expire

What Speaker Boehner and Rep. Cantor seem to ignore is the President won re-election not only in the electoral college but also in the popular vote. Democrats increased their seats in the House and Senate too. The GOP kept claiming the 2012 election was a referendum on the President and he won so they need to yield.

MURRAY: Well, here’s where we are, our country has a tremendous debt and deficit problem. We also have a challenge in making sure that we educate our work force. We need to make sure we care for our veterans who need that care today. We need to have research. And we need to be able to compete in a global marketplace, those investments are important.

Everyone who has looked at this, including the supercommittee that I served on, said we need to have revenue as part of the solution to this problem as well as looking at entitlements and spending cuts. What has been the missing ingredient is congress to date has been the revenue and to make sure that it is fairly distributed and the wealthy pay their fair share. That is what we face right now. If our Republican counterparts can step forward with that revenue piece we will be able to find a solution.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And if not, go off a cliff?

MURRAY: Well, clearly, we have the ability between now and the end of the year to not go off the cliff. But we can’t accept an unfair deal that piles on the middle class and tell them they have to support it. We have to make sure that the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share.

We just had an election where President Obama ran on that. We increased our majority in the senate with Democratic candidates who said that so solve this problem the wealthiest Americans have to pay their fair share, too.

So if the Republicans will not agree with that, we will reach a point at the end of this year where all the tax cuts expire and we’ll start over next year. And whatever we do will be a tax cut for whatever package we put together. That may be the way to get past this.

Notice the stipulation that we’re going to make more demands on the middle class? Again: We are not starting from a level playing field. The economic security of working and middle classes has been absolutely devastated in this recession. This continued mantra about a “balanced” deal makes as much sense as asking a rape victim to pay for her rape kit. The Democratic caucus has been consistent about their message — don’t buy it. (As my nana used to say, “The fishmonger never yells ‘Rotten fish for sale!'”) 

On This Week: Hurry, Hurry, The Fiscal Cliff Is Coming Up!

Exactly! This so-called “shared sacrifice” shouldn’t even be talked about unless and until the rich start sacrificing. They have a long way to make up to even get to where the middle class and poor are at now.

As pointed out later on ‘This Week”:

VANDEN HEUVEL: I agree with Paul Gigot. Americans voted decisively for fair share taxes on the richest, for protecting Social Security and Medicare, but also for growth and investment. You cannot get growth and investment with the spending cuts as they are laid out in the grand bargain.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And certainly not the sequester.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Certainly not the sequester. So I think part of the problem we’re having, George, is the fundamental assumptions overriding this entire discussion. Senator Murray said that we have a big debt and deficit problem — no, we don’t. We have a big public investment and jobs problem.


VANDEN HEUVEL: Last point. We’re not Greece. Austerity, if you believe in evidence-based politics and economics, you look at what’s going on in Europe, and austerity, which we may have American-style in this country if we proceed the way we are doing, has led to economic pain, has led to killing growth. Killing growth.


VANDEN HEUVEL: And debt and deficit.

Yes people need jobs and growth, fair share taxes from the wealthy, and no more cuts to the social safety net. Austerity and budget cuts at this time is like cutting off an arm just because you have the sniffles.

The President was re-elected so why on Earth would the Republicans even suggest we adopt the plan they were flogging before the election?

Elections mean things.