Fasten your seat belt. Strap on your helmet. The president's going to take us over the fiscal cliff. And the 50 percent of Americans who voted for him shouldn't object a bit; this is what they voted for.
Clearly, it's what Obama wants. He's so uninterested in negotiating with Republicans in Congress that he's cleared out of the capital for another week or so of doing what he does best - campaigning. Hopefully, he left the White House answering machine on...
The president sent his minions to meet with congressional Republican leaders on Thursday. They arrived on Capitol Hill with a proposal so unserious as to make Sen. Mitch McConnell - not known for a hair-trigger sense of humor - burst out in laughter. Evidently no one told the campaigner-in-chief that if one is seeking to trade tax increases for spending cuts, one does not begin by proposing $1.6 trillion in additional taxes, $50 billion in additional "infrastructure" spending in 2012 alone, further extensions to unemployment benefits, the vague promise of $400 billion in unspecified spending cuts and - the cherry on top - a transfer of the power to raise the national debt ceiling to the White House. I'd laugh too.
So, over we go. It's obvious the president is playing politics - take the country over the edge into higher-taxes-for-everyone-land, and then ride in as the savior by pressing for a "middle class tax cut." It's brilliant if one doesn't care that he's risking the national economy to make himself look good, which is apparently OK if you're a Democrat: demonize the successful and make the Republicans look bad, whatever the cost to the country. It's also OK if you think that, once over the cliff into taxland, it's going to be easy to get out. But that may not be the case.
It may be time for a little Republican political judo. After the electorate wakes up to what a return to Clinton-era tax rates means - less spending money for everyone paying federal income and payroll taxes, less "social welfare" spending, more unemployment and the distinct possibility of severe recession - perhaps negotiations can begin in earnest, and not entirely in a way the Democrats want.
For four years the president's line has been that the rich "need to pay a little more" regardless of the realities. It's time to expose this class-warfare lie for what it is: returning to Clinton-era tax rates on the highest earners will bring in about $82.4 billion a year; not insignificant, but for a government spending $1.1 trillion dollars a year more than it takes it, the sum is beer money. It won't solve anything; it's just a sop to the ugly streak of hate-the-rich populism that is the president's stock-in-trade.
Here's a thought: if taxation is really the answer, why not go for it? Let's dramatically expand the tax base. There's no reason that everyone shouldn't have to pay something, even if it's a paltry 1 percent. We've all heard the president and vice president call paying taxes a "patriotic duty," so who are the Democrats to stand in the way of people being patriots? That's just wrong. Come on, there's a deficit to fix...
While we're at it, since the Democrats are hot to go back to the Clinton years, when everything was rosy and the economy was humming, why don't we reduce spending to what it was in, say, 1997? That would mean paring budgets for defense, welfare and health care by 66 percent; education and transportation would be cut by 60 percent. For comparison, non-social-security revenues have risen only 33 percent since then.
Yes, you read that right. Revenues have risen by a third since the Golden Age of Bubba, but spending has gone up twice as much. We don't have a revenue shortfall in this country, we have a profligacy problem. And that's the cold truth that Republicans should insist we deal with as we sail toward the rocks at the bottom of the cliff.
Don't hold your breath. Sandra Fluke wants you to pay for her birth control. Hermes Maldonado wants you to co-sign his new home loan, regardless of his sketchy credit history. Candace Falkner wants you to pay her unemployment benefits, forever. And Hamid Karzai just wants the aid money, without all that "military advisor" fol-de-rol. He has a palace to build on the Riviera, don't you know...
The president's budget campaign-of-the-moment is hogwash. It's profoundly damaging, and it has to stop. Maybe it will and reality will prevail, when the national economy has to deal with the aftermath of the posturing and imagined mandates now filling Washington with a political miasma. Or, maybe not.
Just remember: this time, it will be the Obama recession.
Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.