Seriously, folks

Trading barbs through media won't solve fiscal cliff crisis

Seems strange for a newspaper to suggest, but we wish our leaders in Washington would stop negotiating the “fiscal cliff” solution through the media.


Since the election, President Obama or his surrogates have thrown out wholly untenable proposals – including an unconstitutional handing over of budgeting from the Congress to the executive branch. The Supreme Court has said that can’t even be done with a line-item veto – yet the White House has suggested giving the executive branch the power to unilaterally raise the nation’s debt ceiling.

Nor did the president propose real spending cuts – after repeatedly touting a “balanced” approach to deficit reduction during the campaign.

Then, instead of working over the numbers with Republicans, the president went on a campaign-style swing to blast the Republicans and rally supporters.

That’s not how serious negotiations are done.

Sadly, even liberal-leaning CNN commentator David Gergen is confounded by the combative negotiating tactics Democrats have employed in recent weeks.

“I have to tell you,” he told CNN’s John King recently, “over the last two years I think it was the Republicans who showed an arrogance, a resistance to ... a reasonable compromise. But since this election, I think the Democrats are the ones who are really trying to rub it in and almost humiliate the Republicans.

“And that’s not going to get to a bargain. It has to be a win-win.

“There are creative solutions to this, but it does take both parties.

“You hear among some Democrats right now, and it’s disturbing, that, ‘Maybe we just ought to take (the country) over the cliff. We’ll score political points against the Republicans and we’ll force their hands in the new year ...”

Indeed, the Associated Press wrote this week that “Administration officials also hardened their insistence that Obama is willing to take the nation over the cliff ...”

The “fiscal cliff” refers to an end-of-the-year series of tax increases on all earners as well as hundreds of billions in blunt and thoughtless cuts to defense and domestic spending.

Democrats appear tempted to try to use the fiscal cliff for political advantage. And they seem to be in the catbird seat. If Republicans go along with everything they want, great. If not, nothing gets done and the fiscal cliff comes and taxes go up on everybody and they blame Republicans. Polls show the public will agree that Republicans are to blame.

In turn, we’re not sure what the Republicans are waiting for. It seems clear they will be forced to agree to tax increases on the wealthy in order to preserve the current middle class tax rates. They don’t have much time to use that concession as leverage to extract real and meaningful spending cuts from their Democratic colleagues.

As Mr. Gergen aptly notes, a solution will take both parties.

Right now, though, Democrats seem intent on making Republicans look bad – and Republicans appear intent on helping them.

Obama, Boehner discuss 'fiscal cliff' by phone


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