The Washington Post

The emerging truth about the 'cliff' is discouraging but useful

In case there was any doubt, the rejection of yesterday's GOP fiscal cliff counteroffer proves that as far as the president is concerned, it is not about the money.  It's not about strengthening the economy or encouraging job growth. For the president, it's not even about avoiding the fiscal cliff. The president's plan is about a punitive desire to raise taxes on the most productive parts of our economy and expand the role of government in America.  The Republican plan raises a ton of money, but does not raise tax rates. To do so would be anti-growth and harmful to any job creation potential within the still-fragile American economy.

House Speaker John Boehner is to be commended for his great work in getting us to this point. No one should underestimate how difficult it is gather the entire GOP leadership around a single federal budget proposal — especially one that raises taxes.

If you don't care about the economy or jobs, you have a political advantage. If you just want to raise tax rates, regardless of the economic consequences, and you want to dispense more government benefits, you have polls on your side.

The Democrats, led by the president, are obsessed with raising tax rates and they won't agree to anything that slows the growth of entitlements and the rise in the number of people living off ever-increasing handouts. None of this is encouraging, but it is useful to reveal where everybody really stands. The president wants to pound the Republicans into raising rates and then pound them in the media for wanting to cut payments to widows and orphans. The president needs to lead us away from this deceit.

A second-term president is empowered to speak the truth and put aside the campaign talking points.  This could be a big moment for President Obama. He could do good for the country and great for himself if he would just seriously lead on these fiscal-cliff negotiations.

Let's hope he finally sees past the narrow rhetoric of class warfare and the tired left-wing demands of tax increases as they pursue their idea of some sort of social justice. Let's hope serious overtures are being made in private and that we will see Boehner and President Obama sitting together very soon.

Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.


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