Let Obama leap the fiscal cliff alone
By Michael R. Shannon
web posted December 10, 2012
A recent editorial cartoon summarizes the political situation surrounding fiscal cliff negotiations. Two men are poised to fall down a steep incline. The one holding a newspaper that reads ‘tax cuts' says, "They say the fiscal cliff is more like a slope…" And the steep, dangerous cliff they are standing on is the back of an elephant sitting on his hind legs.
The moral is Republicans will be blamed regardless.
CNN and Pew Research Center polls show a majority of the public will blame the GOP if the country goes over the cliff, even if Speaker Boehner fetches coffee for Obama during negotiations and compliments Michelle on her triceps.
To avoid this the GOP must start thinking strategically. That and take some very useful advice from two unlikely sources: Grover Norquist and Barack Obama.
Norquist urges Republicans to televise negotiations. This is a good idea that will allow the public to see just how intransigent Democrats are. While Obama warns House Republicans to get out of the way, which is exactly what they should do.
While the TV cameras are humming, Boehner should recognize the President built his campaign around raising taxes and voters supported that agenda. Boehner should explain that although Republicans disagree and believe his policies will plunge the nation back into a recession, if not depression, the people have spoken and Republicans will not obstruct him in any way.
Then — as Dante wrote about denizens of one level of the Inferno — we let Obama be himself with a vengeance. Republicans simply vote ‘present' and, following the Obamacare precedent, the President's socialistic, dangerous policy passes without a single Republican vote.
We lose tactically in the short run, but we win strategically in the long run. Negotiating minor cuts at the margin now not only won't be a victory, it will allow Obama — and his Hallelujah Chorus in the media — to blame the failure of his fiscal policy on Republicans. That is impossible if Obama gets his way.
What's more, bickering over petty spending cuts, discredits major cuts as a viable debt reduction strategy in the future. When these rounding–error cuts fail to make a difference, Democrats and the media will claim we tried cutting and it didn't work.
Keep in mind Republican House leadership has a bad track record when it comes to negotiating cuts anyway. The last time we had a debt confrontation in 2011, Boehner came up with a total of $352 million in cuts. To put that in perspective, the amount represents one–tenth of one percent of the budget.
Whoop–tee–freakin'–doo. It would have made more sense to take the "savings" and buy lottery tickets. Last week's Powerball jackpot was almost twice as large as the "cuts."
And the wealthy job creators Obama's tax increase will harm? I repeat, any Obama compromise means Republicans own the failure, because Obama didn't get all he knew the nation really needed. And in the unlikely event he succeeds — and remember the media will set the bar remarkably low — Obama gets all the credit.
Some will object that House Republicans have just as strong a mandate as Obama, since they were elected, too. But that's horse hockey. GOP congressmen were re–elected in gerrymandered districts designed to be impossible for Democrats to win. Obama won the entire nation and he's right about his mandate, misguided as it is.
If recognizing the results of a democratic election is the proper policy in Egypt, it's the proper policy here, even if the Socialism Brotherhood was the winner.
Holding out for miniscule spending cuts is simply negotiating the length of the rope Obama will use to hang Congressional Republicans.
There are only two instances where the GOP should fight today. One is opposing giving up Congressional debt ceiling authority in the future. The other is Boehner's promise that if the Democrat Senate changes filibuster rules, all subsequent Senate bills will be DOA in the House.
Giving the President unilateral debt ceiling authority is like giving the Times Square homeless man a pair of boots and a credit card. No Congressional debt authority, along with rewriting filibuster rules, would cause long–term damage to the country and set a dangerous precedent. Otherwise, let Obama own the agenda and own the responsibility. It will be impossible to blame Republicans for a result they did not in any way impede.
Our goal should be winning in 2014. It's the asymmetrical strategy I advocated recently; and it is the kind of strategic thinking Republicans need to start utilizing.
Two years of short term pain will result in House and Senate gains that will allow Republicans to start reversing the course of Obamaism. Besides, I want to watch Democrats try to run in 2014 on a platform of "Osama's Dead & So is the Economy."
Michael R. Shannon is a public relations and advertising consultant with corporate, government and political experience around the globe. He is a dynamic and entertaining keynote speaker. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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