Late Monday afternoon, the House Republican leadership lofted its latest offering to address the fiscal cliff. The kindest conservative response possible to this proposal is that it was “a dud.” It was much worse than a dud, however, as Heritage described in its initial response to the House proposal.
Not to be outdone, the White House reaction to the House proposal was dismissive. The House leadership proposal involved nearly an even split between tax hikes and spending cuts.
The Obama Administration’s reaction? The House plan “does not meet the test of balance,” further confirming that the White House definition of balance is, as usual, “heads, I win; tails, you lose.”
Apparently, the operational definition of balance for Team Obama remains the approach taken in all major legislative battles (health care, the debt limit, etc): Balance apparently means that the President gets all he wants and Republicans are allowed to appear at the White House signing ceremony if they promise to behave and wipe their shoes.
Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, reacted to the House Republican proposal to raise taxes by $800 billion over 10 years as follows: “Their plan contains nothing new and provides no details on which deductions they would eliminate, which deductions they will close.” For this Administration to complain about a lack of details—having previously floated a frivolous, flimsy, fantasy proposal—is, as our British friends might observe, quite cheeky.
More to the point, how is Republicans caving on taxes to the tune of $800 billion in tax hikes “nothing new”?
Suspicious minds might wonder what’s really being discussed heretofore in these high-level talks held behind closed doors. More likely than the memorialization of past policy indiscretions, the correct interpretation of Republicans offering such an unfortunate concession is that “nothing new” is White House code for “not enough, not nearly enough.” This would be consistent with their apparent definition of “balance,” which is to say all tax hikes and a bit of new spending to boot.
If the White House and the House Republicans are to make real progress on resolving the fiscal cliff dilemma prior to Christmas, the fiscal policy passion play unfolding on the national stage must come quickly to an end.
For President Obama and his minions, if they continue their public theatrics, they will be adding substance to the growing suspicion that, while going over the fiscal cliff may not be their first preference, as expressed recently by Senator John Barrasso (R–WY), Obama “is increasingly showing his hand that he is comfortable going off the cliff.”