Fiscal Cliff Causes Hostage Crisis

During the campaign I subscribed to the Obama for America email list. I occasionally skim through the messages (but never while eating) to see what the opposition is saying. The email I received (which read more like a ransom note) from my new "friend" Stephanie Cutter the other day was especially nauseating. Here are a few excerpts:

Friend --

I hope you had a lovely holiday and all is well. I'm writing with a quick update on the "fiscal cliff" and how you can get involved.

Right now, President Obama is asking you to think about what $2,000 a year means to you and your family -- because Congress needs to hear it.

Thanks for the note, but the so-called "fiscal cliff" that has everyone so paralyzed with fear is really just a politically-constructed illusion designed to scare Americans into handing over more money and power to politicians. It's the same type of con job that the California electorate just fell for and isn't a cliff at all but merely a steeper slope toward the real fiscal cliff. The real "fiscal cliff" is our national debt which is projected to grow to a staggering $20 trillion by the end of Obama's second term if the borrowing and spending continues at the same unsustainable pace of the past four years.

President Obama is holding the middle class hostage and is demanding that the "rich" need to pay up if said middle class ever wants to see their $2,000 again. Republicans (our negotiating team) should respond by asking the middle class what those thousands of extra dollars have done for their families over the last decade and what their lives would be like today if the Bush tax cuts had never been implemented in the first place? I say this because when I look back at the congressional record I see that only ten Democrats voted for the 2001 Bush tax cuts and only seven voted for the 2003 version.

A centerpiece of his platform, and the campaign you built, was that income taxes should not go up on the middle class -- that the responsible way to pay down the deficit, while investing in education, job training, research, and science, is to ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more.

None of this is a surprise to anyone in Washington. They heard the same arguments we did -- they paid attention to the campaign, and then they saw a clear majority of voters deliver a verdict on November 6th.

If President Obama was reelected by a "clear majority" based upon the "centerpiece" of his campaign that "income taxes should not go up on the middle class" then those (working Americans) who trusted Obama and thought they would be released will be in for a bit of a shock. Had the electorate paid closer attention it would have understood that while ObamaCare is not an "income tax," its implementation will result in higher taxes, higher health care costs, and fewer economic opportunities for this very same middle class Obama claimed to be trying to protect. And did you catch the other deception in the first paragraph? Isn't paying down the "deficit" (not the debt) just a different way of saying you still plan on overspending?

For more than 19 months, President Obama campaigned on the idea that if we're going to be successful, every American has to do their part and pay their fair share.

The Administration claims that the "responsible" way to pay down the deficit is to ask the wealthiest Americans (the ones who already pay the most) to "pay a little more," but the projected revenue from letting the tax cuts expire for the "wealthy" amounts to less than $90 billion a year. This ransom demand won't make the slightest dent in the deficit let alone the debt cliff and would only satisfy the hostage takers for about eight days. Even if the government were to demand 100% of the $1.7 trillion in wealth held by the wealthiest 400 in the U.S., there would only be enough to pay for a little more than one year of Obama's average yearly deficits. A new group of hostages would soon be rounded up again.

The question then becomes: why hold the middle class hostage for a tax increase on the "rich" that will not only fail to make a dent in future deficits, but will further damage the economy and bring us even closer to the looming debt cliff?

Oh, I almost forgot, spending "cuts" are to be part of this "balanced approach." The problem is that in Washington, the phrase "budget cuts" really just translate into a reduction in the rate of spending growth and doesn't mean real cuts at all. Maybe it should be called less-more budgeting. In other words, the debt cliff will continue to gain in elevation and we will eventually go over it.

Any truly "balanced" bipartisan approach to these hostage negotiations would include actual spending cuts (not less-more budgeting) coupled with increased revenue. And the best way to increase revenue is to grow the economy by cutting tax rates and reducing regulations. You only have to go back to the Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton and Bush tax cuts to see that revenue (what Democrats claim to want and need) increases as a result of the economic growth that is created by such cuts. Couple tax cuts with actual spending cuts (what Republicans never get) and we just might survive this thing. Why was it said that everything was hunky-dory when the federal government consumed around 18% of GDP (still too much) under Clinton but we are now suddenly unable to survive with one penny less than about 26% of GDP being consumed under Obama?

Your story matters and Congress needs to hear it.

Think about what $2,000 a year can do for you, or your family, or someone you know, and submit it here:

Your story does matter and Congress should hear your plea for release. Think about the fact that you are being held hostage over a symbolic tax hike on the "rich" that will only further slow down the economy, have no real impact on deficit spending and only increase the size of the real debt cliff. Tell Congress where would you be today if the Democrats had gotten their way more than a decade ago and you didn't have the benefit of keeping those thousands of extra hard-earned dollars that the Bush tax cuts afforded you?

I wish I could be more optimistic but the media is helping the hostage takers by providing the blindfolds, the Chief Keystone Cop (Boehner) is totally botching negotiations and judging from the election results, millions of middle class voters are clearly suffering from an extreme case of Stockholm syndrome.

Scott blogs at