Sunday, December 9, 2012

Going Over The Fiscal Cliff: The Free Will Rationale

A few days after the election, I was grumbling to various Free Will Insiders that the then-incipient "fiscal cliff" negotiations were pointless, and we would be better off letting the Jan. 1 deadline expire without any further drama or delay. Naturally, I didn't write this down, so I can't literally claim to have anticipated the "walk away" position that Rush, Dr. K, and other hard-nosed conservatives have taken up. But, as they haven't expressed the Free Will Rationale, I can at least record that for posterity:

1. everyone involved in the 2011 deal that resulted in the fiscal cliff, except maybe Allen West, was returned to office.

2. When American voters elect a divided gov't, they must know that the results will be these sorts of tortured compromises.

3. the fiscal cliff does involve some (admittedly anodyne) spending cuts

4. To those national security hawks setting their pants on fire over defense spending cuts I will say this:
a. the Pentagon has enjoyed absurdly large budgets, as compared to the rest of the world.  
b. there is nothing oxymoronic about being cheap and being a hawk 
c. the Patraeus scandal has exposed, maybe indirectly, that our officer corps is maybe not living the Spartan life-style that we have all imagined, and that the military could stand to go on a diet.  
d. Ronaldus showed us that defense spending can be increased, and military readiness restored, in very short order
5. To the tax hawks, I will say this:
a. As we have learned over and over again, Democrat tax rates can be cut, and revenues increased, in very short order.  
b. we shouldn't be focusing exclusively on income tax rates. If you want to start a real class war, look to the myriad tax shelters that wealthy liberals like the Kennedies and Warren Buffet use to perpetuate not just their wealth, but also their wealth-destroying causes. 
This is not to say the GOP should simply fold. Republican fingerprints don't need to be on middle class tax increases (you know, all those "rich" people who benefited from the Bush tax rates). Retain the Bush rates for 99%* and let 'em go up for the 1% who (1) mostly live in Blue-states anyway and (2) haven't exactly been loyal GOP voters lately.

This is all unpleasant stuff, but the real problem is spending, and we are not going to solve America's spending problem in two weeks with John Boehner at the helm. Defense cuts and tax hikes have happened before and the GOP has tended to dial these back in relatively short order. But, reducing spending requires a level of commitment and solidarity that the GOP simply cannot rely on in the next three weeks. There is nothing dishonorable in a strategic retreat, so long as we know the commitment is there to fight again another day.

(* isn't it funny how Obama's 1%, which we heard about all through the election, has magically morphed, without comment, into 2%? Fair Warning: I am already hearing the 2% elided into "2 or 3%." We'll be up to 5% by the end of the year.)

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