One blogger suggests that Obama prefers to play chicken, taking the nation right to the edge of a fiscal disaster because it will increase the likelihood that the GOP will cave. Perhaps, but there's more to it.
Many of us warned that Obama is not, by nature or ideology, a conciliator. He is not a centrist, and he's not someone who is interested in the other side's ideas. He knows what he wants to do, and he is hell-bent on doing it. He is not just playing hardball as a matter of strategy; he has no interest in compromise and is angling to get his way entirely. And he wants to further damage the Republican brand in the process.
The way Obama probably looks at it is that Republicans will cave and he will either get most of what he wants, or the Republicans will hold fast and he can effectively blame them for taking us over the fiscal cliff. You'll note that in none of these explanations is there a hint that Obama is motivated to do what is best for the country. He intends to act in his own best interests and those of his party, and decidedly against the interests of the GOP and, ultimately, the nation.
To better understand what we're dealing with and what the stakes are in these negotiations, let's take a look at what people mean when they say we're headed toward a fiscal cliff in January -- as distinguished from the much bigger cliff we're heading for if we don't get our deficits and debt under control very soon.
The immediate fiscal cliff includes the largest tax increase in a single year in our nation's history ($494 billion), dangerous defense cuts via sequestration, a Medicare reimbursement fiasco and an expiration of federal funding for extended unemployment benefits.
Despite these looming concerns, Obama hasn't approached these budget talks in good faith, but in a way that even former defenders recognize is designed to result in an impasse. Indeed, Obama's proposal is so manifestly unreasonable that even his own party - Democratic senators and congressmen -- has consistently rejected less extreme versions of it in its unanimous votes against his budgets.
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