Consider the president’s most recent offer, in which he insisted on: 1) $1,600,000,000,000 in new taxes; 2) yet another “stimulus” program; 3) an extension of unemployment insurance; 4) more money to bail out mortgages; and 5) permanent and arbitrary authority to raise the debt ceiling without any Congressional oversight. Oh, and as to the so-called “balanced approach," not only were no new spending cuts specifically identified, but President Obama is proposing that the currently scheduled cuts be “delayed.” Also notably absent from his offering was any reference whatsoever to entitlement spending.
Going back to the analogy of buying someone’s home for a moment, if you really did want to sell your house and someone offered you $1 for it, would you really think they were serious buyers? That is in essence what the president has done.
I am not sure why any of this should come as a surprise. Many conservatives have thought for some time that the president was more than happy to go over the fiscal cliff - and stay there. After all, doing so would accomplish some things that he has pursued for some time. He never liked the so-called Bush tax cuts, for instance, and it is Democrat orthodoxy that the Clinton-era tax rates - to which all rates would return post-cliff - somehow magically created national prosperity.
As to the sequester cuts, they dramatically reduce military spending, a holy grail to many in his party.
Does that sound like partisan hyperbole? To the contrary, it is consistent with what the President’s own party has been saying to anyone willing to listen (or read a recent article in Investor’s Business Daily on the topic): 1) Paul Krugman wrote a column recently entitled, “Let’s not make a deal;” 2) Daily Kos warned that any “deal” between the president and the Republicans would smack of a "Great Betrayal;” 3) Many Democratic lawmakers have openly suggested that going over the cliff would only strengthen the president's position; and 4) The Huffington Post called going over the fiscal cliff “a hand Democrats are looking forward to playing.”
More recently former DNC Chair Howard Dean, in a rare moment of candor, acknowledged that “the truth is, everybody needs to pay more taxes, not just the rich.” Going over the cliff accomplishes exactly that.
Of course the key issue for the left is not the taxes or the military spending cuts - but who gets the blame. The fiscal cliff allows Democrats that rare political opportunity to do something that they want to do - something that is politically unpopular - while letting somebody else pay the political price.
I fully admit that I may somehow be missing the serious offer buried within the president’s rhetoric. That said, Mark Zandi - head of Moody’s Analytics and a recent Democrat witness before the Joint Economic Committee just last week - lamented the lack of spending cuts and entitlement reforms in the president’s offer. I would suggest that if he cannot find them, they aren't there.
People like Krugman and Kuttner, the folks at Daily Kos and The Huffington Post - and most especially Gov. Dean - actually deserve our praise in all of this. Why? Because at least they are being honest about where they stand. And at least they are showing the courtesy of not making that $1 offer to buy your house.
Perhaps it is time for the president to consider doing the same.
Mulvaney is a member of the House Budget and Small Business committees.