The fiscal cliff deal

I haven’t been able to digest all the features of the fiscal cliff deal as yet. The White House has put out a fact sheet on what the deal contains. My initial reaction is disappointment that does not seem to go nearly as far in taxing the rich as I would have liked but also relief it did not hammer the poor and the safety net as much as I had feared.

Paul Krugman’s informed take on such matters is always worth considering, both on the practicalities and what it says about politics.

So, what are the two sides really fighting about? Surely the answer is, the future of the welfare state. Progressives want to maintain the achievements of the New Deal and the Great Society, and also implement and improve Obamacare so that we become a normal advanced country that guarantees essential health care to all its citizens. The right wants to roll the clock back to 1930, if not to the 19th century.

Krugman is pleased, as I am, that Social Security and Medicare benefits were not touched. While I would have liked to have seen taxes raised on incomes over $250,000, rather than the $450,000 agreed to in the present deal, that change does not reduce revenues by too much. But he notes once again the disturbing signs of president Obama’s willingness to capitulate too early and too often, promising trouble ahead in future staged crises.

So why the bad taste in progressives’ mouths? It has less to do with where Obama ended up than with how he got there. He kept drawing lines in the sand, then erasing them and retreating to a new position. And his evident desire to have a deal before hitting the essentially innocuous fiscal cliff bodes very badly for the confrontation looming in a few weeks over the debt ceiling.

If Obama stands his ground in that confrontation, this deal won’t look bad in retrospect. If he doesn’t, yesterday will be seen as the day he began throwing away his presidency and the hopes of everyone who supported him.

I found the whole process by which the deal was arrived at to be disturbing. On this issue the US government acted like bunch of high school slackers. They knew they had this deadline coming for a long time and yet they waited until the last minute, pulled an all-nighter, turned out a mediocre product, and then congratulated themselves for having worked hard.

This is not the way to run a country.


  1. Randomfactor says

    I think we may have traded the fiscal molehill legislation, in the Senate, for filibuster reform.

  2. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Surely a key political point is the split in the Republican party: most of the Senate Republicans and just over 1/3 of the House Republicans voted for the deal, but the rest of the House Republicans against. This follows Boehner’s failure to get the House Republicans to vote for his proposal.

  3. Psycho Gecko says

    I know how a lot of other atheists don’t seem too fond of Bill Maher, but he was right about Democrats needing the drug Growaset to help them stand up to the Republicans.

  4. Psychopomp Gecko says

    Darn, it used shortened version of my name in last attempted comment. For propriety’s sake, I prefer not to use the shortened version here.

    So anyway, perhaps someone should have nominated Obama’s balls for the ticket so he could keep those while in office. I just don’t see how you go from an electoral trouncing that leaves the opposing party apparently in its own civil war to then compromising (yet again…) on a deal where the people are pretty well opposed to the other side anyway.

  5. Psychopomp Gecko says

    So what I tried to say was that even if most other atheists don’t seem to care much for Bill Maher, he was right about the Dems needing to take a drug called Growaset to help them stand up to the Republicans.

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