Jumping off the Fiscal Cliff

This is a standoff designed to fail: The very language of the debate assures it. Photo: Katie Moyle, Tourism on the Edge

COLORADO SPRINGS, Co., December 6, 2012 — The language of the “fiscal cliff” is not one designed to come up with a compromise solution. After all, how do you compromise on “going over a cliff”? You either do or you don’t. No middle ground. As Obama seems to be saying, “Give me what I want or I’ll drive this economy off the cliff ­— and I’ll blame you.”

There is a rich tradition in our culture of going over the cliff, from Wiley Coyote to Butch Cassidy to Indiana Jones. The jump doesn’t always end the same way. In fact, more often than not it ends up well. The jumper lands in a river which carries him rapidly downstream to safety. Sometimes the water goes over a falls and the jumper ends up in a placid pool at the bottom.

They do get wet, but they’re usually unhurt.

The current Democratic narrative takes its cue from the movie Thelma and Louise, wherein two women purposefully drive their car over a cliff to their own destruction to avoid being brought to justice for their crime spree. The audience is supposed to feel sorry for their terrible dilemma, and I’ll bet many do.

Come to think of it, that may not be a bad analogy for the current situation.

The crime spree has been going on in Washington for a long time. Overpromising, overspending, and putting off the Day of Judgment: That has been going on for more than a decade. It happened under both Bush and Obama, even though Obama has really put the pedal to the metal.

Obama’s reckless overspending in the spring of 2009 brought about the Tea Party reaction and the Republican take-over of the House in 2010. In 2011, when the debt ceiling was reached, there was a showdown. The House Republicans blinked. They feared being blamed for a government shutdown.

There were fiscal conservatives who said at the time, “Bring it on!” Polls showed that the American people might well have supported them. The Obama administration held Social Security and military paychecks hostage. Military personnel were called to mandatory briefings to be told that they might not be paid on time.

So Congress kicked the can down the road. They created a 12-person legislative supercommittee pretty much designed to fail, which it did. FreedomWorks convened a Tea Party Debt Commission which proved that the budget could be balanced within three years. All it takes is the will to do so. The federal government, each branch for its own reasons, doesn’t have the will.

Why recap this recent history? Because we seem to have such short memories. The crisis of the election is over and now it’s time to focus on the next crisis du jour. The last four years have been one manufactured crisis after another. The left feeds on it, the rest of us get disgusted by it. Hang on: Voters just opted for another four years of this.

Each crisis is designed to advance the liberal agenda. This one is quite brilliant, really. It was set up back in 2011. Now Obama thinks he has the Republicans right where he wants them: If they cave on taxes, they lose a significant part of their base; if they stand firm and higher taxes hit, it is again their fault. Lose, lose.

The really brilliant part of the strategy is that Obama wants it to fail. Think about it: the choice is framed by the left as either tax the rich or tax everyone. Howard Dean let the cat out of the bag last weekend when he said we’re all under taxed, but he really didn’t have to; the fact that this class-warfare, tax-the-rich scheme would only fund government for eight days should be a big clue that this isn’t seriously about the budget, the deficit, or the debt.

It is about control. It is about the federal government controlling a bigger portion of our national GDP. Why didn’t the senate didn’t pass a budget in the last three years? Because the stimulus spending is now built into the baseline and they didn’t need to pass a budget. By voting for the status quo, voters assured no good solution for the next four years either. There will be continued recession.

Obama has most of the cards and he knows it. Why else spend $4 million taxpayer dollars to jet off to Hawaii this month, seemingly oblivious to the “crisis”? (He has a habit of leaving Washington during these crises and nobody seems to notice or care.)

The next move is Boehner’s. Which way will he jump? The signs are he will cave completely. He’s just purged fiscal conservative voices from key committees. Perhaps the Speaker is using the crisis to enhance his own power.

The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.

The one thing the Speaker should know, but apparently does not, is that Obama the fox can’t compel, coerce, or force him to do anything if he does not want to do it. If the Speaker played the hedgehog, he—and Americans generally—would win. Instead, it appears that he thinks he can outfox the fox.

This is not about taxes or budgets or spending. This is a test of wills. The House Republicans have the power to stop the madness. We elected them to do that in 2010 and we re-elected them in 2012. If the House stands firm now, think what that would mean for the next four years.

It’s time to think outside of the box that Obama built. Since we’re going off the cliff one way or the other, we might as well do it right. Cliff diving can be a beautiful thing.


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Al Maurer

Al Maurer is a political scientist and founder of The Voice of Liberty. He writes on topics of limited government and individual rights.

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