Fabrications from the Bully Pulpit

Going over the "fiscal cliff" begins to appear to be a strategy for Democrats to take back the House.  The President is prepared to fully explain to the nation why the dysfunctional GOP controlled House is the cause of the nation's woes and particularly why the "cliff" is the Republican's fault.

In a Wall Street Journal article recounting behind closed door discussions between the President and the House Speaker, it is revealed that "Mr. Obama repeatedly lost patience with the Speaker as negotiations faltered. In an Oval Office meeting last week, he told Mr. Boehner that if the sides didn't reach agreement, he would use his inaugural address and his State of the Union speech to tell the country the Republicans were at fault."

This is right in his wheel house. National audience receives disinformation. Lacking rebuttal, unquestioned, and consumed by a lazy journalistic community, the utterances will pass for the truth. Joe Wilson and Judge Alito know the game.

The alleged great bipartisan unifier seems curiously short on the art of compromise.  Dashing off to Hawaii, he leaves the country teetering in a fiscal imbalance of his party's own design and sponsorship.  We need leadership, but receive a turned head to the country's problems. Is this non action an indication of Obama's desired outcome?  Blaming the Boehner House will be good fodder for the mid term elections.

Any pledges of post election "flexibility" have been offered only to the Russians.  Working with Dmitry and Vladimir seems more palatable to Obama than compromising with Boehner and Cantor. Pleasing the Russians with nuclear treaties and promising more concessions is strangely more comfortable than party and agenda concessions to the GOP.  Reaching out to Russians, but not to Republicans.  Maybe Medvedev can be his best ball partner at Congressional Country Club guest day.

The fiscal cliff is beginning to look like a silent objective for the Progressive Democrats.  The evisceration of the military budget, even a caution to the perpetually jet lagged Leon Panetta, is on the Progressives wish list.  Are Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod worried about that prospect? Not likely.

Wealth redistribution will ramp up as the fiscal cliff estate tax (death tax) rates will spike beyond their current confiscatory levels. Combined with estate taxes (death taxes) at the State level, passing on the earned, yes the earned and previously taxed wealth of the family, to subsequent generations becomes impossible. 

"The estate and gift tax exemption will decrease from $5.12 million to $1 million and estates with assets greater than the $1 million exemption will see tax rates increase next year." 

Furthermore, as George Will notes, "the death tax, which is 35 percent on estates above $5 million, reverts to 55 percent on those above $1 million."

Confiscatory in nature and from the Family to the Government.  (May we speak of fairness now?)  Are the Progressives concerned? No. Delighted? Entirely.

The great compromise to avoid this cliff was supposedly centered on the revenue concessions from the Right meeting the spending concessions of the Left.  Even Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson proposed this arrangement.  That Obama commission suggested 3 dollars of spending cuts to each new dollar of revenue.  Now Obama demands a one to one deal.  If only the GOP had affiliated themselves with Obama's own Simpson Bowles recommendations during the election, it would have placed Obama in an uncomfortable and indefensible position.  

Now Obama trumpets the passing of middle class tax cuts, merely a twist on the partial extension of the Bush tax cuts.  This counter step by the President is tricky language that leaves certain tax rates steady, and calls them cuts. Playing politics and staying off the topic of spending, he appears to the casual observer (ABC NBC CBS viewer) as a champion to the middle class.  It is illusionary.  He isn't spending time on his side of the equation. Uncontrolled spending surmounts any modest tax rate benefit to the middle class and swamps any revenue which may arise from a tax increase to upper brackets.

Obama glaringly avoids the topic of spending cuts, his supposed offering toward cobbling the compromise. Republicans in the House offered $800 billion in new revenues as a step.  Obama scoffed.

In a the same Wall Street Journal article, "At one point, according to notes taken by a participant, Mr. Boehner told the president, "I put $800 billion [in tax revenue] on the table. What do I get for that?"
"You get nothing," the president said. "I get that for free." "

Neither good faith compromising nor anything on the order of great leadership transpiring here.  Clever politics at work.  Clever politics rarely benefit the nation.

Raising taxes on the upper incomes provides little relief for the fiscal imbalance. 

Spending cuts are needed but are not be offered by Obama.  Any revenues from tax increases are paltry in comparison to the necessary spending cuts.  But it is the minutiae of tax increases that rings the political bell, keeps the class warfare alive, and sustains the Progressive Democrat imagery.  It is an absurd notion that we can "revenue" the condition back into balance. 

Why would the Democrats want the fiscal cliff conditions? In the unlikely event of spending cuts from fiscal cliff triggers, any impact from those cuts will be quickly negated by the trickery of baseline accounting and its baked in and automatic increases.  In contrast, higher tax rates and the military cuts will be ensconced.  Neither scenario is distasteful to the Progressives.  In fact, the entire "cliff" begins to read like a Progressive bucket list.  And any ill affects can and will be blamed on the Republicans.

Publically the Left pretends to be opposed to the fiscal cliff.  The President's lack of effort to meet Boehner in compromise is telling.  Not lifting a finger seems to be Obama's only labor outside of image control and University speech delivery. Political imagery at the direction of Axelrod and Jarrett is the President's only duty of the day.  If the "cliff" is breached, the bully pulpit of an inaugural or a State of the Union speech offers Obama a great opportunity to paint the canvas of public opinion, demonize the GOP controlled House, and impact the midterm elections.

Bruce Johnson