Serving the New Majority While Remembering that The “Fiscal Cliff” is Imaginary[Incidentally, that second link by Chait is quite lengthy. And his prediction was published October 14. It prints out to seven pages and I am still reading it.]
This is the coalition that President Obama must keep in mind as he faces questions about taxes, entitlements, and health care reform. It will be helpful if he remembers that “the fiscal cliff” is an imaginary construct. The nation will not self-destruct on January 1 if he doesn't “made a deal” with the Republicans.
As Jonathan Chait recently wrote in New York Magazine: “Here is how it works. Starting in January, there will be a series of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that greatly improve Obama’s bargaining leverage. If those policies stay unchanged for the entire year, they would harm the economy a great deal. But if they only stay in place for a few weeks, or even a few months, the impact would be minor.”
According to Chait, if Obama just does nothing from now until the end of the year he will have great leverage: “The Bush tax cuts will have disappeared, restoring Clinton-era tax rates and flooding government coffers with revenue to fund its current operations for years to come. The military will be facing dire budget cuts that shake the military-industrial complex to its core.
“All this can come to pass because, while Obama has spent the last two years surrendering short-term policy concessions, he has been quietly hoarding a fortune in the equivalent of a political trust fund that comes due on the first of the year. At that point,” acccording to Chati, he will reside in a political world he finds at most mildly uncomfortable and the Republicans consider a hellish dystopia. Then he’ll be ready to make a deal.”
Ms. Mahar is more circumspect and links to a couple of less dramatic alternatives. I believe it's too soon to know how it will all shake out, but a lot will depend on how quickly the Republican leadership (what's left of it) can get a grip on reality and do whatever arm-twisting it takes to drag the survivors of this election into some measure of reality. The old ways of getting stuff done may be the same, but the people now taking the wheel are not the same drivers. THEY DIDN'T BUILD THAT vehicle but they sure learned how to drive it. And the old ways of deciding which road to take are ovah.
The time has come for those who accused Barack Obama of being a weak leader to eat their words. If he was not the leader who assembled the most effective political machine of our lifetime, please tell me who did? Organizational "ground games" such as the one that got him reelected to a second term do not spring into existence by accident. That level of coordination and focus only happens deliberately, with plenty of input and feedback from boots on the ground. Some field workers were paid, but the real spade work was done by volunteers. Crafting an organizational steamroller like the one Obama drives takes a lot more leadership than whipping a week of Olympic games into shape.
When I contrast that kind of leadership with the Orca-driven bubble which Mitt Romney tried to take with him to the White House it scares the piss out of me. Even if European monitory and fiscal instability triggers another global financial collapse worse than that of 2007, most ordinary folks will never guess how close we just came to a real catastrophe in this country. Even now mild-mannered Conservative apologist David Brooks speaks of "Fiscal cliff. Gridlock. Doom. Recession. Panic. Despair. But let’s not think of that today. The election campaign stunk, but the day after should still be about hope." Governor Romney's attraction to those, the darkest quarters of his party, is a telling commentary on his judgement and decision-making abilities. The man obviously is not in it for the money. In today's world he is either manipulatively power-hungry or just