FreedomWorks: Congress, Obama agree to an “epic fail” on the fiscal cliff

Danny de Gracia interviews FreedomWorks’ Jackie Bodnar on the fallout of the fiscal cliff agreement. Photo: The White House

WASHINGTON D.C., January 2, 2013 – Late last night President Barack Obama held a press conference regarding the bipartisan agreement to avert the fiscal cliff and announced he would “sign a law that raises taxes on the wealthiest two percent of Americans while preventing a middle class tax hike that could have sent the economy back into recession and obviously had a severe impact on families all across America.”

Thanking Congressional leaders of both parties, President Obama went on to say  a larger deal had been discussed with House Speaker Boehner, but “unfortunately there just wasn’t enough support or time for that kind of large agreement in a lame duck session of congress and that failure comes with a cost as the messy nature of the process over the past several weeks has made business more uncertain and consumers less confident.”

Following Obama’s official statement on the fiscal cliff deal, I spoke with Jackie Bodnar of FreedomWorks over the phone for a perspective on just what happened and a reaction to the bipartisan agreement. Calling the deal an “epic fail” that was pushed through at the last minute, Bodnar points out that the American people were largely left out of the loop on the details and warns that a closer look at entitlement reform is still very necessary.

Danny de Gracia: The President just finished a speech and he essentially said that tonight’s agreement was one more step towards strengthening the economy but this doesn’t seem like a fiscal cliff deal, this seems like more of a fiscal cliff concession towards tax increases and more spending. Why do you think that this happened?

Jackie Bodnar: I think first of all the process was defective. These late night talks effectively shut the American people out of the budgeting process and that’s not how you get things done, so that’s disappointing. And then the actual content of the bill is very disappointing. It’s certainly not a compromise.

DDG: Well, you know, why do you think it’s so hard to cut taxes and cut spending? During the campaign or whenever you catch a Republican speaker at CPAC you’d think that they were pretty much hawks for fiscal conservatism but you know they really didn’t hold the line on this.

Bodnar: No, and we’re still looking through the roll call. Just so you know, some people did. We’ve endorsed in the past Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, they all held the line so there are definitely some people that are standing up for taxpayers, but you’re right, it’s disappointing.

DDG: The question that a lot of people are asking is that it sorta seems like every time that there’s a critical vote that’s come up in which you know, basically the American people were imperiled with new regulations or mandates or tax increases, what pushed these bills over the edge was not Democrats but Republican crossover votes. For example, Obamacare  passed because of Republican crossover votes. The Democrats have been able to get hikes to the debt ceiling because of Republican crossovers, even in the SCOTUS ruling on Obamacare it was a Bush appointed Supreme Court justice who upheld that. So I guess the question is, is there really effective representation in our government if you have a situation where both of the parties are voting the same way?

Bodnar: Right, and that’s why FreedomWorks is not affiliated with a political party. It’s really about bringing good policy. It’s not about finding Republicans for the sake of being Republicans, it’s about finding fiscal conservatives that when push comes to shove will make the right decisions and stand with taxpayers over insiders and special deals.

DDG: Now what do you think should have happened in terms of approaching this fiscal cliff? What do you think are some of the reforms that Congress and the President should have done but didn’t do?

Bodnar: Well we’ve been advocating for the promised $1.2 trillion in sequester savings, extending the current tax rates for another year for all tax brackets and then taking a serious look at entitlement reform and fundamental tax reform in 2013. Because the details of these kinds of reforms are crucial and they’re not something should get snuck in at the last minute at the end of the year at two o’clock in the morning. This is something that needs a serious look because taxpayers deserve better.

DDG: So for those taxpayers out there who are basically confused and trying to understand what just happened here what would be your advice to them? How would you explain what just happened here?

Bodnar: What just happened was what my boss Matt Kibbe called an “epic fail.”

DDG: (Laughs)

Bodnar: And so we’re going to try really hard at FreedomWorks to do what Congress didn’t do this time around which is take a really transparent and thorough approach at what happened so we’ll be discussing it in detail. I know Dean Clancy’s going to put out a long explanation of exactly what happened and then we’re going to break it down and show the roll call votes. And it’s about keeping the system as transparent as possible so you can hold these guys accountable for making the wrong votes.


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Danny de Gracia

Dr. Danny de Gracia is a political scientist and a former senior adviser to the Human Services and International Affairs committees at the Hawaii State Legislature. From 2011-2013 he served as an elected municipal board member in Waipahu. As an expert in international relations theory, military policy, political psychology and economics, Danny has advised numerous policymakers and elected officials and his opinions have been featured worldwide. Now working on his first novel, Danny resides on the island of Oahu.

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