President Obama and Speaker John Boehner will soon begin budget negotiations to avoid the fiscal cliff at the end of the year, when all the Bush tax cuts are set to expire and a slate of steep spending cuts are scheduled to take effect. Independent economists say the U.S. will slide back into a recession if that happens, yet some liberals are arguing that's precisely the course Obama should set, since allowing all the cuts to expire would make it easier for Obama to raise taxes on the rich. "At that point, a vote for a tax cut that Obama will sign — i.e., the middle-class tax cuts only — would clearly" pass the Republican-controlled House and thereby avoid an economic calamity, says Matthew Yglesias at Slate. Should Obama drive the country over the fiscal cliff?
No. Obama shouldn't gamble with the economy: The left is pushing Obama to "adopt a strategy of confrontation and conquest," but that would be the height of irresponsibility, says David Brooks at The New York Times. "It's reckless to think you can manufacture an economic crisis for political leverage and then control the cascading results." While it would help Obama ram through tax hikes on the wealthy, it would hurt his second-term agenda, sowing "such bitterness that it would be the last thing he'd pass for the rest of his term." Resolving the fiscal cliff will "take a dealmaker, not a warrior."
"Obama the dealmaker"
Yes. The Republicans will fold: Obama's consistent promises to raise taxes on the wealthy "should leave no doubt in anyone's mind," says Mohamed A. El-Erian at Fortune. "We should expect him to maintain this position, even as the nation's anxiety increases with respect to this self-inflicted problem that, if handled badly, would unambiguously push the country into another costly recession." That's because Obama "has the stronger set of arguments," and the "Republicans know it." They will "shout and scream" as the country barrels toward the cliff's edge, but will "end up going along."
"Obama will tax the rich more"
And Obama's base will howl if he backs down: Obama's re-election "has invited Democrats to imagine a new era of liberalism, in which they are no longer forced to swallow policy complaints for the sake of winning a second term," says Sam Stein at The Huffington Post. The "election results showed that they can run a no-apology, Democratic platform and win," which will put Obama and his negotiators "in more than just a small bind." If he compromises on taxes "there will certainly be howls" from "inside the Democratic tent."
"Obama, progressives renew wary embrace"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Pope Francis' American problem
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Sorry, GOP, tax cuts don't pay for themselves
- A brief history of the Christmas present
- 7 enduring lessons from It's a Wonderful Life
- George W. Bush 'ran the country like a cable network,' and other political insights from Chris Rock
Subscribe to the Week