Saturday, November 17, 2012

There Is No ‘Fiscal Cliff’!

As many have said, in politics, s/he who controls the choice of language controls the dialogue. Enter the "fiscal cliff": a mythical Jan 1. deadline by which all sorts of dire things are supposed to happen, unless Congress and the president act to... well, to what? Well, to hear Republicans tell it, to avert a major fiscal crisis that will push us back into recession immediately.

And what do those same congressional Republicans propose as a remedy to these dire predictions? Awwww, c'mon: what do Republicans ever propose? tax cuts for the wealthy... the very thing least likely to alleviate any fiscal problem, except the problem of anything resembling fair taxes on their obscenely wealthy base! This is just another GOP attempt like the one they perpetrated some months back, to hijack a government they don't legitimately control at the moment.

Fortunately, MoveOn has done my homework for me and compiled a concise list reflecting the state of things, which I am taking the liberty of reproducing here (MoveOn explicitly invites us to share it):
1. The “Fiscal Cliff” Is A Myth. As Paul Krugman put it, “The looming prospect of spending cuts and tax increases isn’t a fiscal crisis. It is, instead, a political crisis brought on by the G.O.P.’s attempt to take the economy hostage.”[1] Republicans are manufacturing this crisis to pressure Democrats to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and accept painful cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

2. The Bush Tax Cuts Finally End December 31. If Congress does nothing, the ax will fall on all the Bush tax cuts on New Year’s Eve.[2] Then, on January 1, the public pressure on John Boehner and House Republicans to extend the middle-class tax cuts (already passed by the Senate and waiting to be signed by President Obama) will become irresistible.[3] So the middle-class tax cut will eventually get renewed, and we’ll have $823 billion more revenue from the top 2% to do great things with.[4]

3. The Sequester. The sequester is another political creation, forced on Democrats by Republicans in exchange for lifting the debt ceiling last year to avoid crashing our economy.[5] It’s a set of cuts (50% to a bloated military budget and 50% to important domestic programs) designed to make both Republicans and Democrats hate it so much that they’d never let it happen.[6] And the cuts can be reversed weeks or months into 2013 without causing damage.[7]

4. The Big Three. Nothing happens to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits on January 1—unless Republicans force painful cuts to beneficiaries in exchange for tax increases on the wealthy, which are going to happen anyway if Congress does NOTHING.[8] So, there’s literally no reason benefits cuts should be part of the discussion right now.

5. We Should Be Talking About Jobs. The real crisis Americans want Congress to fix is getting people back to work. And with just a fraction of that $823 billion from the wealthiest 2%, we could create jobs for more than 20,000 veterans and pay for the 300,000 teachers and 52,000 first responders, which our communities so desperately need.[9] That’s not to mention jobs from investing in clean energy and our national infrastructure.


[1] “Hawks and Hypocrites,” The New York Times, November 11, 2012

[2] “Bush-Era Tax Cuts,” The New York Times, November 9, 2012

[3] “Boehner Is Bluffing,” Slate, November 9, 2012

[4] “CBO: Ending High-Income Tax Cuts Would Save Almost $1 Trillion,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, August 24, 2012

[5] “The sequester, explained,” The Washington Post, September 14, 2012

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Let’s Not Make a Deal,” The New York Times, November 8, 2012

[8] “How the Across-the-Board Cuts in the Budget Control Act Will Work,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities,” April 27, 2012

[9] “Veterans’ Jobs Bill Blocked in the Senate,” The New York Times, September 19, 2012

[10] “Jan Schakowsky Announces new Budget Plan With Focus On Jobs,” The Huffington Post, August 10, 2011

[11] “Fact Sheet: The American Jobs Act,” The White House, September 8, 2011

I understand this full well. You do, too, if you've been following the same sources I have. The only question is whether Obama both understands it and will act on it. There is some hope: he seems to be feeling his post-election Wheaties these days. It's time he shows us what he's really made of.

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