It might be too much to say that President Obama wants to go over the "fiscal cliff." It seems increasingly clear, however, that he wouldn't mind it much.
And the reason that he wouldn't mind is not so
much that he sees it as a price to pay for some other desired policy.
The "policy" that he seems to be insisting on - expiration of the Bush
era tax cuts for those making over $250,000 and an equivalent amount of
additional taxes on the same ground - yields modest deficit reduction and
nothing for the additional spending that Obama wants. It is small ball.
When you appreciate that, the going over the fiscal cliff is not a cost of Obaman intransigency, it's a feature.
why. It has been a long time since the Democrats - and many Republicans
- had a vision of government restricted to the provision of a limited
number of essential services and a social safety net. But the President
has an aggressively ambitious view of what the state can do. It can
reorder industries and engage in more substantial redistribution of income that it does today.
you can't have that kind of state without substantial tax increases on
the middle class. No European state does it. We can't either. As the
President likes to say, "the math tends not to work."
problem for the Democrats has been that they can't call for middle class
tax increases. If they had, they would have lost the election. (This
should be a sobering thought for those who believe there is a permanent
Thus comes the beauty part of the
"fiscal cliff." The Democrats can help themselves to a substantial tax
increase by doing nothing. To be sure, they'll have to live with
sequestration for a while but it is heavily weighted toward defense and,
if there is one thing that Congress has proven itself capable of doing,
it is raising spending.
The "fiscal cliff" becomes a down payment on the Obama agenda.
Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.