It is becoming increasingly obvious that the President has no intention, nor did he ever intend to “make a deal” to avoid the looming budget crisis. That it was always his intention to raise everyone’s taxes to the level they were before President Bush cut them should be clear for anyone to see. The so called “fiscal cliff” was set up as result of negotiations between Jack Lew, his Chief of Staff and a former Citibank COO, and Congress during the last crisis over raising the debt ceiling. As a result of the negotiations, if no deal is made, taxes revert to their pre-2001 levels, social security withholding goes up by 2% of earnings, and there will be automatic cuts in defense and other areas of the government. All of these are outcomes favored by the President and his party. He knows that raising taxes on people earning under $250,000 per year will raise three times as much cash for the government as raising taxes on the higher earners. That why the deal was set up this way. All he has to do is say “no” to whatever the Republicans offer and he gets what he wants: more money for his programs, less money for defense and he can blame it on the Republicans.
All of the talk about protecting the “middle class” and taxing the wealthy that he fed the voters during the campaign was a smoke screen covering his real intention which was to simply raise everyone’s taxes. Like any good con, this one worked by making the mark, in this case the middle class voters that voted for him, believe they were going to bilk some other guy, in this case the over $250K set, out of some money, of which they would get a share in the form of government services for which they don’t have to pay. Being the good flim flam man that he is, the President had those voters, more commonly known as suckers, looking at what his one hand was doing while he was lifting their wallets with the other.
Anyway, it’s done now. Oh, just so you don’t feel left out, for all you social security oldies like me, he has proposed a 5% cut in benefits. I know a lot of you voted for him. Congratulations on a job well done!
Keeping the lights on and the bills paid is part of what is commonly known as housekeeping and is one of the jobs of the head of the household. If there is insufficient income to pay the bills, the head of the household has to either reduce expenses, increase the household income or both. Since there are other people in the household who have an interest in these matters, their input is important, particularly if one of the other members is a spouse with a co-equal voice in such decisions. The discussions regarding what expenses to cut and how to increase the family income will very likely be unpleasant, possibly acrimonious. Nonetheless, it this the responsibility of the head of the household, and remember that he not only took that job voluntarily, he actively sought the job, to resolve these differences and get the problem solved. Leaving town and complaining to friends about the intransigence of other members of the household is not an option. It is showboating and the action of an adolescent, not an adult.
Housekeeping is not glamorous or fun, but it has to be done if the other things the family wishes to do are to be possible. The American family can’t go to the moon and Mars, cure disease, help the less fortunate, protect the natural world, fight for freedom or do any of the other more exciting and glamorous things we would prefer to do if we can’t keep the lights on. It is time for the head of the household to return to the kitchen table, sit down and hammer out a plan that will keep the lights on. He won’t like the final plan, nor is it likely that the rest of the family will either; but in the end, everyone will be able to live with it.
Usually the term lame duck applies to a President during the two month period after the election through the day he leaves office. Since he is on his way out, he has very little power and is thus a lame duck. Unfortunately, President Obama became a lame duck the day after he won the election. Several factors have placed him in this situation. Typically, Presidents are re-elected by larger margins than they received when first elected. It was true of Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Reagan, and Clinton. Bush 43 only increased his margin slightly and accomplished virtually none of his agenda during his second term. This President was re-elected with 7 million fewer votes than he received in 2008, despite there being nearly 5 million more eligible voters. Second, during the second half of his first term, he repeatedly complained that he couldn’t work with the divided Congress, yet the Congress he faces next year is nearly identical to the one he faced then. Indeed, most of the Republican members were either elected or re-elected by running against the President as much as against their actual opponents. Our own new congressman, Andy Barr, won his election by tying his opponent to the President. What this means is that these members of the House are under no electoral pressure to give the President the tax increases he wants. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Finally, he has boxed himself into a position from which he will likely have to retreat. By insisting during the campaign and in remarks after his victory that he won’t accept any budget that doesn’t raise taxes, he has put himself in exactly the same weak negotiating position he has been in for the last two years and the outcome will almost certainly be exactly the same. Since his re-election was marginal, he can’t really go over Congress’s head to the people, as Reagan, Clinton and others have done. The bully pulpit only works if you are popular. This lack of leadership is what I most feared by his re-election and it now looks like we are facing several more years of inaction on a fiscal crisis that grows more critical with each passing day.