Friday, November 16, 2012

Falling Off the Fiscal Curb

There is no better time in recent memory for the Democratic Party -- and its core constituencies -- to stand firm on the almost entirely Republican-manufactured fiscal "cliff" by stonewalling the Republican leadership and allowing, if necessary, the Bush tax cuts to expire on January 1st.

If we keep smiling, will they let us keep our tax cuts? Sorry, not this time.

There are, for once, very good signs that the Democrats' core constituencies are closing ranks preemptively by drawing hard lines, something Barack Obama is loath to do. Why the president hedged his bet at the recent post-election press conference I don't know, since a lot of the usual suspects are gone, such as Ben Nelson, Kent Conrad, Olympia Snowe, et al. Few are left to pull the rug out from under a tax increase coalition. There's no Lucy left to humiliate Charlie Brown with her usual antics. Here's the buildup of support:
  • Labor has announced a "keep your hands off our Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid." There should be no connection between fiscal solvency and entitlements.
  • Bernie Sanders, representing the real Left, said as much.
  • Nancy Pelosi said, "Why are we relating revenue to Medicare, or Medicaid, whatever? Those issues, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, they should be in their own realm." Amen.
  • Barack Obama made it clear taxes on the wealthy were going up, although I wish he'd drawn a "red line," whatever that is. (Actually, the term has been misused recently by a number of leaders, from Bibi to Barack.)
That's worrisome talk from Obama because we don't need to placate the blue dogs anymore. We've got a bill passed already in the Senate, and we just don't need uncertainty. Here's the money quote from the president's press conference:
So that's my concern. I'm less concerned about red lines per se. What I'm concerned about is not finding ourselves in a situation where the wealthy aren't paying more or aren't paying as much they should; middle-class families, one way or another, are making up the difference.
That sounds strong, but it leaves an opening that John Boehner could drive a truck through. Mr. President, stop with the equivocating and let the Republicans run themselves off the fiscal cliff of their own making. Do you think the American people won't punish them for their folly?

I'm sure they would. Dare them, Mr. President, then sit back and enjoy the fun. The bonus is that you'll get you way, for once, when it counts.

You laid your marker down. Now, stand your ground. We've got your back.

Update. AARP weighs in and joins the coalition opposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare as part of debt talks.

Update 2. President Obama calculates an outside game:
President Barack Obama is preparing to expand the fiscal cliff fight beyond the confines of Washington, traveling the country and leaning on Democratic activist groups to help apply political pressure.

The goal, organizers said, is to keep engaged the activists and followers who have stood with Obama through two campaigns, and to begin applying external pressure to the president's negotiations with congressional Republicans.
 Stay tuned, and watch for a way to participate.

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