Barack Obama seems ill-equipped by temperament and character to fight that battle. Too often, the Republicans have been rewarded rather than punished for disgraceful behavior.
The Paul Ryans of America have lost the bet fair and square. The tax cuts experiment has had plenty of time to show results, but the only people whose economic situations have improved since the Bush tax cuts are the wealthiest 1 percent of society.
Tax rates fell on the wealthy after 1980, while their incomes skyrocketed. But how strong is the correlation between falling tax rates on the wealthiest among us and economic inequality?
We know the shutdown is not about fiscal responsibility. If it was, Republicans would not have run up the deficit under W by trillions of dollars with two unpaid wars, unpaid Medicare prescription plan, and the Bush tax cuts.
While corporate profits soar and our biggest corporations increase in value by billions, the people of the city of Detroit, some of whom are also the customers and employees who keep those corporations in business, are insolvent.
What if I told you about a $1.3 trillion disaster passed mostly under a contortion of the Senate rules known as "reconciliation" and signed into law by a new, untested president whose legitimacy was questioned by millions?
The Bush presidency was a disastrous presidency which caused a range catastrophies including the Iraq war, the budget deficit, and the financial crash.
We're still having the wrong discussion. It shouldn't be how to cut the budget deficit. It should be how to bring back good jobs and economic growth. Deficit hawks and government-haters are still framing the debate. That bodes ill for all of us.
Once again, it is up to President Obama to take the lead and make the American public aware of all this. Our nation is in a hopeful but tricky place right now and which way we go will depend as much on our confidence in ourselves as in any statistics.
Republicans have done a lot of damage. Despite this, the American people have been, characteristically, resilient. But we are at the end of our rope and holding the debt ceiling hostage for destructive spending cuts will do nothing to lengthen it.
A U.S. carbon tax has the support of both environmentalists and business leaders (including Michael Bloomberg, New York Mayor, and Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil CEO). It would be a rare political twofer that produces massive revenues while lowering emissions of carbon dioxide.
It should be obvious from these two extremes that what we really need is a system that is fluid while being disciplined, expansive without being prodigal, and one that employs a carrot along with the stick to move the U.S. back towards economic sanity. The trillion dollar question is: Does such a system exist?
Congress needs to finish its fiscal work successfully and quickly and then pass legislation that will stimulate job creation and growth and development of the economy for the middle class and the working poor.
I don't blame the president for compromising on the fiscal cliff, but the debt ceiling is a whole other matter. Given the severe consequences of a potential default, there is no end to what the GOP might demand.
Not only is this new cliff more dangerous, but we're also more likely to go over it. A deal would have been much more feasible for Fiscal Cliff 1 than Fiscal Cliff 2.
The major question now is, what is the shape of the debate to come? We believe the President and the Democrats' hands are strengthened, not weakened.