WASHINGTON -- With the economy at a virtual standstill, President Obama is trying every desperate trick he can to distract voters from his failures on the issues that matter: economic recovery and jobs.
On Monday, he was trying to resurrect his previously rejected plan to kill the Bush tax cuts for those Americans earning more than $250,000 a year. Congress has already dismissed this idea, even when Democrats controlled both chambers, but Obama is trying every crafty maneuver he can to avert voter attention from last week's mediocre job numbers.
This time, Obama has decided to play a game of chicken with Congress at the end of the year when all of the Bush tax cuts are due to expire. This is the so-called "fiscal cliff" that economists say could push the sluggish economy into another recession if all the tax rates rise to their previous levels at the end of December.
And it's not far from that now, with the Obama economy barely growing last year by a pathetic 1.7 percent and a weak 1.9 percent in the first three months of this year. Slowing economic job growth means slower job growth, and we're seeing it now with three straight months of puny job-creation numbers and a rising 8.2 percent jobless rate.
But instead of addressing this bleak economic reality, Obama decided to play the old class warfare game again. He announced that he would support a one-year extension of Bush's low- and middle-income tax cuts, but not for any higher tax brackets. And the White House warned that if Congress sends him a bill that extends the tax cuts for all income levels, he will veto it.
Obama's threat to let all of the tax cuts rise if he does not get his way left Democrats on Capitol Hill scratching their heads. With less than four months to go before the election, why raise the specter of an across-the-board income tax hike for everyone?
No one in Congress thinks it will act on the expiring tax cuts before Election Day, but Obama was playing a card that only heightens the uncertainty about the economy's future. It is this uncertainty about fiscal policy that has held the economy back, suffocating needed capital investment and expansion.
At the same time, Obama's latest threat is one of the biggest flip-flops in a presidency noted for them. Since he assumed office in 2009, he has made killing the top Bush tax cuts an obsession of his presidency, and he went toe-to-toe with Republicans in 2010 over the issue.