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.
The White House and Senate have agreed to make the Bush tax cuts permanent for 99 percent of households, starving the federal government of funds. Even Mitt Romney could never have accomplished for the Republicans what Obama has just done for them. The Democrats in the Senate would have soundly rejected the plan if the Republicans had put it forward. There has been a special absurdity to the entire negotiating process, which has violated every standard of rationality and transparency. And meanwhile, the Federal Government is being dangerously weakened in its capacity to help America address the economic, environmental, and social challenges of the 21st century.
The U.S. Treasury Department has been taking contributions toward the national debt since 1961. The largest single donation, made in 1992, was $3.5 million. Most contributions have been under $100 dollars.
Getting a bipartisan agreement on the fiscal cliff puts us on the path to a better future and will allow us to focus on finding smart, pragmatic solutions to these other important issues.
Obama wanted to be the president who would change the tone in Washington, meaning a more collaborative relationship with the Republicans. That was not to be. The Republicans would not allow it.
If the deal is reached, the Republicans have won: they have locked in a federal tax system that collects so little total federal revenue that government can afford almost nothing aside from the military, interest payments, retirement programs and health care.
If the economy continues to grow, the president's second term will be a victory, period. That means the Republicans actually have to make sure it goes wrong. To accomplish this goal, the Republicans seem to have settled on two angles of attack.
They are terrified of being on record as having voted to raise taxes and their behavior indicates that they would prefer higher taxes and cuts to be triggered by virtue of their inaction, even if it plunges the economy into another recession.
We cannot tax cut our way to prosperity any more than we can tax and spend our way into fiscal nirvana. It requires a balanced approach of sensible spending cuts, substantive entitlement reforms and negotiated tax increases.
I thought I'd take the opportunity for a quick lesson in remedial math on small business taxes. Fact-based explanations reveal Speaker Boehner's math-challenged rhetoric for what it is -- nonsense.
Obama, mercifully, has given up the quest for a grand bargain that he never should have pursued in the first place. His current position -- let's just preserve the tax cuts on the bottom 98 percent and fight about the rest of the budget another day -- is exactly what it should have been all along.
In the political circus surrounding the fiscal cliff, we are missing the forest for the trees.
Just imagine, if Washington would just do nothing, all the years and years of wrangling over the long slide of our nation toward fiscal calamity would be over. Overnight, we would achieve a degree of fiscal balance that most Americans must have come to believe is not possible.
Rather than voting to move forward with a balanced plan to protect low- and middle-income people and prevent service cuts that will stall our economy now and for years to come, the House will only be allowed to vote to do the following:
Hands off Social Security. If the Republicans are willing to raise tax rates on high earners but demand more spending cuts in return, the president should offer larger cuts in defense spending and corporate welfare.
Speaker Boehner's "Plan B" deficit package vote is a political stunt designed to feign leadership instead of doing the hard work at the bargaining table with President Obama.