Never underestimate the ability of the government to do nothing. Also, in Washington, if there is a way to defer action until later, there is a powerful natural instinct to do so.
On the surface, the reasons to act to avoid the fiscal cliff are clear, and the voices calling for action are growing. See today’s Wall Street Journal analysis of the latest Congressional Budget Office report, which says we are headed for another recession if we don't take action.
Yet I fear we are about to engage in a shallow debate in which we will hear, ad nauseam, the slogan of asking the rich to “pay their fair share” in taxes, which will mask bad policy or, worse, allow others to hide behind that slogan as an excuse to do nothing. I fear it is underreported that there is a faction of ignorant and ideological zombies on the left who think the results of walking off the cliff won’t be that bad, especially if the public debate has been focused on the idea of taxing the “rich.”
As I’ve said in the past, the call for more taxes appears to be as much ideological dogma as it is part of an economic plan. President Obama and the left see raising taxes as a needed punitive measure that a few deserve, rather than a way to help our economy. There’s nothing about our economic situation that suggests raising taxes would stimulate job growth.
Anyway, we had an election in which the sloganeering of class warfare won, but we never really got around to having a referendum on economic growth. A large part of the Obama coalition are those who want to vote themselves more benefits and a government-supplied lifestyle that others must pay for. That isn’t economic policy, that’s selfish desire. Obama made promises that he expects the remaining few private-sector-employed taxpayers to keep. It’s easy to see that that’s better politics than it is math. The few can’t support the many for long.
Do Obama and the Democrats want to be honest or just keep up the smoke screen of class warfare? House Speaker John Boehner has taken a bold first step that is not universally popular with many in the Republican party, who remain contemptuously suspicious of Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress.
In the 2012 election, nobody won a mandate, so no one should act like they have the upper hand. It’s time for the adults to talk to each other.
And by the way, it’ll be a bad sign if the congressional leadership and the White House start holding private, secretive meetings. Everything related to this issue should be done in public. Everyone who matters should be able to articulate his or her version of the facts and the offers should be made in public. If the process descends into posing, posturing and tired talking points because the leaders responsible for saving us from the fiscal cliff either don’t know or are unable to publicly define problems and offer solutions, then we have a right to know how limited they are. Invite the cameras in.