Feigning Panic at the Cliff's Edge
By Dan DeWalt
Thank God for the fiscal cliff. With the election over, the media needed something upon which they could incessantly fixate, and our daily updates on the fate of the cliff-hanger negotiations are plenty of fodder to hold us until we have the final Christmas sales figures to talk about.
But let's take a quick stroll down memory lane to a little over a year ago. At the time, Republicans were using the threat of not raising the debt ceiling limit as a bludgeon to beat the Democrats into submission on the subject of tax breaks for the very rich. Contrary to his earlier vows, Obama caved, the Bush tax cuts were saved, other Republican demands were met, and all that the Democrats got out of the deal was raising the debt limit and a further extension of unemployment benefits. But the Dems were quick to protest that they did get something else; the Republicans promised to negotiate in the future to resolve their differences and come to a budget agreement. Most importantly, we were told, if the negotiations did not succeed, the Democrats had engineered a result that would cut spending across the board (including defense cuts) but which would spare important social programs like Medicare and Social Security. Liberals like Vermont's Peter Welch touted the tough terms of the deal, bragging about how it was about time that defense is not to be exempted from the common fiscal sacrifice that we all should be prepared to make. He also was pleased that they had saved Social security and other programs from further cuts.
Fast forward a year and the same Peter Welch was lamenting about what a mistake it would be if we went over the “fiscal cliff” that his once admired bargain was threatening to bring about. In fact, congressional lobbyist largess recipients (CLLR, formerly known as congress members and senators) from both parties were crying out about the dangers of defense cuts of this magnitude, (especially ones that would affect jobs in their districts) and warning that barreling over this cliff would plunge us back into recession or worse. To be fair, some of them, including Welch have recently acknowledged that we could probably survive the economic fallout and indeed use the cliff dive to finally cut the Bush tax breaks for the wealthiest (since the Republicans seem not to have realized that they lost the presidency as well as losing seats in both houses of Congress). But almost without exception, our pols want to avoid this “drastic” measure and instead engage in negotiations to find a compromise agreement...
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