Why Republicans Are to Blame for the Fiscal Cliff

Posted: Nov 28, 2012 12:01 AM
Why Republicans Are to Blame for the Fiscal Cliff
America is about to plunge over the so-called fiscal cliff -- and Americans are fighting mad about it. According to the latest polls, 77 percent of Americans believe that the fiscal cliff -- a combination of automatic tax increases and spending cuts set to kick in at the beginning of 2013 -- will hurt them personally. A full 70 percent of Americans want a compromise solution. And 67 percent believe that political leaders will act like "spoiled children."

Most important, though, Americans blame Republicans for the situation. While just 34 percent of Americans blame President Obama for the current fiscal cliff impasse, 45 percent blame Congressional Republicans. This seemingly makes no sense: it's Obama who has incentive to watch America fly off the fiscal cliff, raising taxes and slashing the military budget in his wake. Republicans would prefer to avoid both eventualities. Actually, Republicans want to avoid the fiscal cliff so much that they're talking about eliminating tax deductions, even as Democrats refuse to put a single spending cut on the table. Democrats are the roadblock to a solution here.

But on the other hand, it's Republicans who put themselves in this situation. The fiscal cliff exemplifies Republican spinelessness. It was Republican spinelessness back in 2011 that led to Republican spinelessness now.

Back in 2011, Republicans objected to yet another attempt by the Congressional Democrats to raise the debt limit. They had a choice: either allow government to shut down temporarily while a real solution was found to America's spending addiction, or come to a long-term agreement on budgetary issues before raising the debt limit. The Democrats had two priorities: raise the debt limit, and push the issue of debt off until beyond the 2012 re-election campaign for President Obama.

And Republicans caved.

They came to an agreement with Democrats under which a super committee -- six Senators and six Representatives, split parties -- would get together and decide how to cut $1.2 trillion from the budget. If they failed to reach an agreement, an automatic series of cuts and tax increases would take place. All of this would happen post-election.

The Republican strategy here seemed to be to put a loaded gun to their own temple, then threaten Democrats that if they didn't compromise, Republicans would pull the trigger. Democrats were fine with the consequences of super committee failure: the American public would get soaked to pay for unaffordable social programs. In fact, the consequences of super committee failure are the central philosophy of the Democratic Party platform. Republicans, on the other hand, would be hosed by the results of a super committee failure. The deal, for conservatives, was a dud.

But not for Democrats. So Democrats refused to come to any real solutions in the super committee sessions. And now we're at the fiscal cliff. And President Obama laughs as we go sailing off of it. The American people find themselves in the uncomfortable position of Wile E. Coyote suddenly realizing that he's standing in mid-air.

So, will Republicans cave on taxes? In all likelihood, they will, if only because half a pie is better than no pie at all. But if they do, they'll be violating promises they made to their constituents about taxes.

We can only hope they do. The only Republicans seriously considering raising taxes or eliminating deductions are folks who fought for the super committee non-solution in the first place. They purposefully stepped on a land mine and then claimed duress. Now it's up to the conservative base to put them under real electoral duress.

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