Boehner is not a skilled politician and should not be negotiating a deal to address the fiscal cliff. Boehner relies on what I call, for lack of better term, the good old boy’s network and seniority as matter of being where he is, not any particular skill or success. And that is part of the problem for Republicans right now as it has led to some very avoidable big mistakes. Republicans went into the debt ceiling debate with a straightforward take it or leave it strategy and ended up getting hammered. They started talking about religious freedom instead of sticking with the context of loss of personal freedoms to the mega-bureaucracy that comes with ObamaCare and had some manufactured war on women pinned on them. And they haven’t been able to shift the conversation about “tax cuts for the rich” to something more constructive for their cause or focus on government on rational solutions to the current economic mess.
Now, in the discussions over the “fiscal cliff” a false choice is being presented to Republican constituencies, a choice between caving to Obama’s demands on taxes and going over the cliff. The problem here is that there is still no plan by which to change the conversation and focus government on solving real problems which should be the ultimate goal if nothing else can be accomplished.
The first consideration is the major problem we have with revenue – the ongoing Great Recession. Even if, as in my last post, nothing is intended to be done about problems with monetary policy, any Republican proposal needs to put a box around the Obama administration and make it deal with the recession without telling them how to do it. If Obama wants new revenue and spending programs, it needs to be contingent upon the economy’s ability to absorb tax increases with minimum impact.
So what I would propose is to give in to allowing the “Bush tax cuts” to expire and replace it with new legislation that has phased in increases for whomever Obama wants to target based on improving economic performance. If Obama wants new revenue, he has to play on Republican turf to solve economic problems; and the popular “Bush tax cuts for the rich” political punching bag gets transformed into the looming Obama taxmageddon, all without much impact on the status quo in the short run.
Part of the problem I see is that Obama wants to do all kinds of things via regulatory rulemaking that are consistent with his utopian ideology and are damaging to the economy while using the bad economy as an excuse to throw money around. There is no incentive whatsoever to do anything about why the economy is in the dumps and plenty of incentive to continually make it worse. This plan forces him to narrow his agenda to the context of economic recovery and do something constructive to accomplish that goal to get some of what he wants while being a reasonable sell to general public who might have a taxation bias toward taxing others instead of themselves. I wouldn’t be surprised if a plan like this one goes into effect that Obama suddenly discovers that the Fed is a real problem and might be more interested in doing something about it.
In short, there is nothing inherently wrong with compromise so long as there is something to be gained that is consistent with the long view of where conservatives would like to go – and if Republicans can use Obama’s own demagogic rhetoric against him to get there, they should do it.