At this stage of the fiscal cliff pseudo negotiations, do the American people have any idea what the Republicans stand for other than to protect the wealthy and cut Medicare and Social Security to harm the sick and aged?
People constantly invoke Ronald Reagan, but one thing is certain and very relevant: If Reagan were on the national stage today, the public would not be confused about what the Republican Party stands for and why it matters.
The GOP is having difficulty even consolidating around a central message, much less selling it to the public. There is no excuse for that.
Though following its election defeat the party has all the confidence of an abandoned stepchild, it needs to shake the dust off, stand up and begin fighting like it truly believes the nation is worth fighting for.
It is automatically assumed in virtually all corners that President Obama has all the leverage in these budget talks. But is that necessarily true?
Let's look briefly at our current economic and fiscal condition and then compare the outcomes of going over the cliff versus reaching a deal and avoiding the cliff.
We have nation-threatening debt, and it's overwhelmingly because our spending is out of control. To the extent that revenues are contributing, it is not because tax rates on the rich are too low. It is because we have an anemic economy.
We have the worst recovery and the longest sustained period of high unemployment in 50 years because of Obama's anti-growth, private sector-smothering taxing, spending and regulatory policies. These policies ensure an endless circular pattern of debt explosion by destroying jobs, which shrinks the tax base and reduces revenues but also increases spending as the unemployed move to the welfare rolls.
Obama has jacked up federal spending across the board, save defense spending. Though he didn't cause the demographic changes leading to runaway entitlements -- except for adding Obamacare -- he is single-handedly standing in the way of reforming these programs.
This is Obama's economy and his financial crisis.
That's where we are. How about where we're headed?
If negotiations fail, we'll end up with automatic spending cuts, which, except for defense, would be a step in the right direction, and tax increases for everyone, not just the rich. Forget whether this is the result Obama wants. The question is whether it's better for the country than what the GOP would have to agree to for Obama to sign a deal averting the cliff.
Obama won't agree to serious spending cuts or entitlement reform, and he's demanding punitive, revenue-negligible tax increases (and elimination of deductions) for the wealthy. Further, he insists Republicans unconstitutionally delegate to him unilateral authority over future spending ceilings and thus abandon any future leverage they would have to force him to cut spending.
Why is it just assumed by Republicans and even conservative commentators that Republicans can't make their case against a reckless president who is primarily to blame for our problems and for any budget breakdowns?
Why, indeed? Fox News just released a poll showing that 89 percent of Americans believe that if taxes go up on the wealthy the president should agree to major spending cuts.
Polls also show the public fears the reduction of entitlement benefits more than it fears an economic collapse mostly caused by entitlements. So Republicans must explain clearly that entitlement reform is what ensures they will keep their benefits and that without reform we will have an economic collapse in which everyone will lose their benefits or receive substantially less.
Republicans appear feckless, unconfident and tongue-tied. They need to go on the offensive and show that Obama is causing these problems and preventing their solution. They need to refuse any deal that doesn't include major spending reductions and substantial entitlement reform, because such a deal would accelerate the bankruptcy of America, while tax increases on the rich won't help at all.
Even going over the cliff would be preferable to accepting Obama's unreasonable demands, which would be destructive to the economy and our financial situation and pointless, except to punish the rich and damage the Republican brand. While the automatic tax increases would be anti-growth, at least we'd have spending cuts, and Republicans will have stood on principle.
Thus, if the negotiations break down and we go over the cliff, it will mostly be Obama's fault. Obama refuses to address the financial crisis. Republicans insist we do. And we can't win this argument? Are we 2-year-olds who can't complete a simple sentence?
It's time for Republicans to draw their line in the sand and spell this out with a strong, unified, articulate voice. And while they're at it, perhaps they could make their case for a pro-growth society rife with opportunity, as contrasted to a future of ever-increasing economic malaise and government dependency.