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Reich writes: "House Speaker John Boehner's failure to persuade rank-and-file House Republicans to raise taxes even on millionaires fits the fanatic's strategy exactly."

Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)
Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)

FOCUS: Call Their Bluff and Go Over the Cliff

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

26 December 12


resident Obama is cutting his Christmas holiday short, returning to Washington for a last attempt at avoiding the fiscal cliff. But he’s running headlong into the Republican strategy of fanaticism.

It’s a long-established principle of game theory (see Thomas Schelling’s classic 1956 essay in the American Economic Review) that a fanatic who restricts his freedom to avert a disaster puts maximum pressure on his opponent to give ground.

In a game of highway chicken, for example, the driver that can’t swerve because he’s tied his hands to the steering wheel and chained his foot to the accelerator forces the other to swerve in order to avoid crashing.

The trick is for the first driver to convince the second that he’s crazy enough to have committed himself to instant death if the second doesn’t act rationally.

House Speaker John Boehner’s failure to persuade rank-and-file House Republicans to raise taxes even on millionaires fits the fanatic’s strategy exactly. Boehner can now credibly claim he has no choice in the matter -Republican fanatics in the House have tied his hands and manacled his feet — so the only way to avoid going over the cliff is for Obama and the Democrats to make more concessions.

The White House’s hope of getting the Senate to pass legislation that raises taxes on the wealthy in order to pressure Boehner won’t work because the legislation can’t possibly get through the House. That’s the point: Boehner has demonstrated he has no choice; the fanatics are in charge there.

Obama could decide going over the cliff isn’t so bad after all -as long as he and congressional Democrats introduce legislation early in the 2013 that gives a tax cut to the middle class retroactively to January 1st (extending the Bush tax cut to the first $250,000 of income) and restores most spending — and Republicans feel compelled to go along.

But with Boehner’s hands tied and the fanatics in charge, this gambit becomes far riskier. What if we go over the cliff and House Republicans continue to hold out against any tax increases on the rich while demanding major cuts in Medicare and Social Security?

The path of least resistance is for Obama and the Democrats to offer to keep everything as is, through 2013 -extend all the Bush tax cuts and continue all current spending (lifting the debt limit along the way) -unless or until a “grand bargain” on the budget is agreed to before the end of next year.

This is likely to satisfy enough Republican fanatics to gain a majority in the House. And it would avoid the fiscal cliff, kicking the can down the road and giving everyone more time.

Deficit hawks in both parties won’t like it, but that’s okay. Unemployment is still way too high and growth too meager to justify trimming the deficit any time soon.

The real problem with this gambit is it doesn’t change the game. Even down the road, Boehner’s hands will still be tied and the fanatics will remain in charge — which will give Republicans the stronger position in negotiations leading to a “grand bargain.” Compromise would have to be almost entirely on the Democrats’ side.

That’s why I’d recommend going over the cliff and forcing the Republicans’ hand. It’s a risky strategy but it would at least expose the Republican tactic and put public pressure squarely on rank-and-file Republicans, where it belongs.

The fanatics in the GOP have to be held accountable or they’ll continue to hold the nation hostage to their extremism. Even if it takes until the 2014 midterms to loosen their hold, the cost is worth it. your social media marketing partner


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+198 # Barbara K 2012-12-26 12:51
The Republibaggers are willing to throw Seniors, the poor, the ill & disabled, children and students under the bus to make the rich richer. I truly hope that people wake up and pay attention to who they are putting in Congress. Going over the "cliff" will at least start raising more revenue; and show the country just how crazy that side of the aisle is.
+101 # Working Class 2012-12-26 13:27
Quoting Barbara K:
The Republibaggers are willing to throw Seniors, the poor, the ill & disabled, children and students under the bus to make the rich richer. I truly hope that people wake up and pay attention to who they are putting in Congress. Going over the "cliff" will at least start raising more revenue; and show the country just how crazy that side of the aisle is.

Once again Barbara you speak with common sense. Thanks.
-68 # HowardMH 2012-12-26 15:03
Yes, Yes, Yes go over the cliff. Lets see if Obama the Wimp can actually do something right and act like a leader instead of a WIMP!
+72 # minggnim 2012-12-26 16:14
I agree. The president has been the Republicons b!tch for far too long. Man up Mr President and let them commit political suicide.
-29 # tadn54 2012-12-26 16:33
Read some federal civics----the president cannot make spending/tax policies; he can suggest and propose, but the decision rests in the house---and not the senate either. If the senate initiates fiscal legislation, the house MUST amend it in order to comply with constitutional protocol.

Do you need me to translate this into 2nd grade prose---with colorful pictures?
+56 # Old Man 2012-12-26 17:45
Quoting tadn54:
Read some federal civics----the president cannot make spending/tax policies; he can suggest and propose, but the decision rests in the house---and not the senate either. If the senate initiates fiscal legislation, the house MUST amend it in order to comply with constitutional protocol.

Do you need me to translate this into 2nd grade prose---with colorful pictures?

It might help the Republicans understand how things work. Their soft brains are enclosed in rock.
+19 # pb83 2012-12-27 10:52
When Boener said that he was turning the fiscal cliff details over to the Senate, my first thought was, "This man is Speaker and doesn't know that this is NOT the Senate's and President's job; it is the House's" That speaks volumes about Congress when the person third in line to the presidency doesn't understand the Constitution of the US.
+1 # tonywicher 2012-12-29 16:26
He's not a wimp, he's a Wall Street puppet, a CIA man and a warmonger.
+66 # Vardoz 2012-12-26 16:04
This is why people stood on line for 8 hrs to vote for Obama. I suggest as many as possible call their reps in BIG numbers 202-224-3121 and the Obama comment line 202-456-1111. We should shower our so called reps with a strong no bribes for lives message. We have told our reps we will not vote for them again if they raise our taxes, cut entitlements and trigger a deep recession so that the rich can stay rich!!! No more assault on the majority of the people of our nation or there will be payback. We need more like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Joe Kennedy.
+41 # giraffee2012 2012-12-26 18:42
Quoting Barbara K:
The Republibaggers are willing to throw Seniors, the poor, the ill & disabled, children and students under the bus to make the rich richer. I truly hope that people wake up and pay attention to who they are putting in Congress. Going over the "cliff" will at least start raising more revenue; and show the country just how crazy that side of the aisle is.

"RepubliTBager criminals are not interested in leadership or being led. They are interested in grinding the economy to a halt, increasing joblessness and then cutting benefits to those in need. Their mission is still to make the president fail."
-17 # RLF 2012-12-27 07:18
This cliff was created by Obama who cynically created this situation because he didn't have the balls to do it last time. This is all a connivance so that Obama and the Republicans can both do something and neither has to take responsibility for it.'re some cheerleader but your man is a Republican in all but name, so wait for the axe...exactly when he can blame the other side.
-2 # Jonathan Levy 2012-12-28 15:11
So are the dems--they both are puppets for the same multination banks. Get this through your incredibly thick skull.
+1 # RICHARDKANEpa 2012-12-30 00:03
Maybe going over the cliff is the best of the grim possibilities but why not work for a good deal.

Those who want to save the defense industry gravy train are the most likely to want to compromise,
+113 # Hirspray 2012-12-26 12:55
Bill Clinton called the Republicans bluff twice as I recall. Look what happened.
+44 # Regina 2012-12-26 17:21
They never learn. It takes a brain to learn. Republicans have only pockets, no brains.
-12 # RLF 2012-12-27 07:25
Bill Clinton signed away Glass/Steagal, he created a tech bubble, and got the real estate bubble started and people pretend he was great for the country. Like Obama he was an In everything but name republican.
+14 # DevinMacGregor 2012-12-27 17:35
Clinton did not create the tech bubble nor did he get the real estate bubble started. He did sign into law an act passed by a republican congress that ended much if not all of glass/steagall.

Wall Street created both those bubbles. The housing boom did not start till AFTER the Dot Com fell to pieces in 2001. The housing boom went on for two years before an apparent bubble was formed. These were also regional bubbles and not one giant one.

We had an obstuctionist Congress then as well but hey who wants to count that for Clinton, right?
+74 # DaveM 2012-12-26 12:57
A few more stunts of this sort and I can't imagine many people turning out to vote for the GOP in 2014. Then again, the GOP has no monopoly on brinksmanship.
+44 # billeeboy 2012-12-26 15:24
The problem is that because of Repugnicants' effective gerrymandering in so many Repugnican controlled states, the fanatic Congressmen and women are not likely to be defeated on 2014. The Repugnicants have created safe seats for these Neanderthals! So this impasse is even worse than Reich's scenarios and is likely to persist until non-gerrymander ed districts are created!!!!
+1 # Jim Young 2012-12-30 09:46
As a former Republican (5 generations), but fierce independent since the time around Elizabeth Warren also left the party, I like to remind my old friends that their hanging on to a majority in the house means nothing about a mandate for them. They lost seats even with the greatest advantages they could create for themselves with the massive push for seats in the 2010 election to enable as much control as possible of the ten year redistricting opportunity.

I fully expect their nonsense to turn out even worse for them (better for us) in future elections. They have failed to ask voters what they really want, instead trying to sell us on a corporate dominated nightmare of a few bad business "leaders" trying to run the government for their short-sighted interests, crippling the productive society we enjoyed when honest work was justly rewarded, and gambling was limited to a fraction of the wasted manipulation of markets.

The ultimate freeloaders have been bailed out far too often with trillions of our markers. Most of them are plenty smart enough to make money honestly, but don't see any reason to do so when it is so easy to take other peoples' money, get bailed out,and stay almost perfectly free of any civil or criminal consequences. Why do we allow this, much less continue to encourage such bad behavior?
+19 # MidwestTom 2012-12-26 12:59
If we go over the Cliff, I am sure that we will see the tax increases, but I doubt if we see any spending cuts.
+76 # BradFromSalem 2012-12-26 13:50
That's the good news, except for the Military cuts that we so desperately must do.
+26 # tpmco 2012-12-26 17:24
Actually we might see some real deficit reduction, aided and abetted by some real revenue increase.

In fact, the bump, if we do go over it, will achieve more deficit reduction than what is currently being "negotiated" and it will forever cement this Congress as the do-nothing Congress of all time.
+56 # jjj 2012-12-26 13:04
President Obama does not seem to have taken any of the very good advice so offered via RSN. For examples: He did nominate John Kerry to replace Secretary Clinton despite some excellent alternative suggestions, He did offer to cut benefits to those on Social Security as part of his cliff avoidance plan, and several more. Has his subscription to RSN lapsed?
+21 # readerz 2012-12-26 16:21
No, but I think that RSN should send comments lists to him as a petition more often. He doesn't see what we think.
+3 # Michael Lee Bugg 2012-12-27 11:37
All RSN readers, except the trolls, should write, and call but mostly write, to the White House and Congress and to your local paper, and they would know what we think! The comment about the Republicans concentrating on state elections so that they can draw voting districts is the most important story lately!
+4 # MidwestTom 2012-12-27 11:41
The government sees EVERYTHING we say and do thanks to NDAA.
+5 # DevinMacGregor 2012-12-27 17:38
LOL, so you are saying they were not already doing that? NDAA of 2012 CODIFIED what they were already claiming they had authority to do since the passage of the Patriot Act.
+1 # tonywicher 2012-12-29 16:29
Obama is a Wall Street puppet of Geithner and Bernanke, a CIA man and a warmonger who is trying to invade Syria and Iraq with his Al Qaeda proxies.
+22 # MidwestTom 2012-12-26 13:29
As one politician put it, "we know what we should do, we just don't know how we will be reelected if we do it". The cliff may be the only way to raise taxes and cut spending. The cliff does not balance the budget, it does not punish those that have made fortunes over the last 15 low tax years, and it does very little to b balance the rich and poor problem. Mt guess is tat we go over the cliff, and then Congress will offer us tax cuts that are less than the Bush cuts, and we are supposed to be thankful, and reelect them.
+4 # RLF 2012-12-27 07:28
I think you're right and I think it was all thought out before hand by both sides...respons ibility avoidance.
+89 # Bruce Gruber 2012-12-26 13:38
Time is up! The Tea Party, anti-government , shut it all down over-simplifier s have let the plutocrats' propaganda machine lure them to the edge. Time to suffer the consequences of allowing the "free" market to work its will.

Over the cliff isn't going to crush the poor or the sick or the unemployed. Most of us are already struggling, growing our own food, cutting back on frivolities, using the emergency room, cancelling insurance policies, driving less, eating Ramen noodles. Austerity will NOW strike the well-to-do. Nobody buying stocks, cars, insurance, houses, borrowing money, going to the movies, etc. etc.

Our value to plutocrats is only as consumers, and to the degree that we can't ... we won't. Let them eat the remains of their caviar and cake and drive around in their BMW's, and Range Rovers. They can all stay at the world's tallest hotel in Dubai.

Let the GOP hardliner, no-brainer, Rush trained sycophants collect the reprisal they deserve for freezing government and progress for the past 30 years. Intelligent progressive ideas and effort will pull us through the crises they have created. Let them have what they have wanted ... free fall for the rich. They've got a LOT more to lose.
+21 # divadoc 2012-12-26 14:22
Well spake.
+18 # Blast Dorrough 2012-12-26 16:39
Brilliant,Bruce Gruber. The real job creators and real economic backbone of the United States are the spenders from the working class paid a living wage, the middle-class employee, the small business-owner and Seniors and Veterans on Social Security. That's economics 101 if not a traitor who hates the Constitution as our Moral Compass and only Authority under our constitutional Republic. The U.S. Mission Statement is under the Preamble to the Constitution safeguarding egalitarian and economic justice to the noted economic backbone of the United States. This 99% must have a political game plan that may bring real change leading to an end of on-going usurpations by the 1% American Rich Criminal Class in treasonous sabotage of our constitutionall y mandated Egalitarian-Bas ed "Republican Form of government." These parasitical tax-dodgers are nothing but government-made multi-millionai res and billionaires having a dependency and reliance on "legalized" corruption and government welfare in the trillions to create wealth. The Rich Criminal Class have yet to earn a single dollar of their immense wealth that isn't tainted by legislative and judicial legal fiction creating "legalized" corruption and "legalized" government-made multi-millionai res and billionaires. A boycott political strategy should force "political representatives " to overthrow the monopolistic Corporate State of fixed-enterpris e of, by, and for the 1% no matter what.
+4 # Vardoz 2012-12-26 18:52
easy for you to say you are probably not living in grinding poverty or a sturggling middle class person who will be forced to pay more taxes.
+6 # Bruce Gruber 2012-12-27 07:38
It is not the tax rate which creates the grinding poverty in America. Taxes do not impoverish the under class or the remaining middle class. Ten or 12 or even 15% of not very much only takes a little more away from ALMOST NOTHING. But it does prevent all but the wealthy (or flush) from taking advantage of the minimal lending rates out there.

Banks won't lend you the 2.5% fixed rate mortgage money from your "free and clear" home equity to buy that new car or add on or pay off the kids' college loans. They'll blame Obama or FNMA and use the profits from high interest income to buy back their stock.

'Grinding poverty' arrives when the second job disappears or your employer off-shores your job or your business closes because the cash flow can't meet your payroll when the insurance policy increases another 15% ... mostly because lenders are hoarding their profits awaiting higher interest rates.

The tax increase you encounter - because Mitt and Adelman are keeping money offshore and only paying 15% when they need a few more bucks - will only add about about 15 to 25 cents an hour to what is deducted from the $5 or $10 an hour you can pay yourself or earn in THEIR FREE MARKET.

Most of us are PRODUCERS in just such an un- (or under-) compensated, multilevel vertical monopoly machine that is protected by OUR government - which THEY own ... or plan to buy.
+11 # BradFromSalem 2012-12-26 13:38
This theory does not hold up since Obama may be the titular leader, but since he is being manacled into place by his constituency; Obama is the one that is now forcing the other side to compromise. Boehner, has essentially removed himself as the Republican leader, because it is obvious that the Republicans do not have a singular position. Instead, they are fractured, unable to negotiate, and also not locked into any position.

I think (hope) that Professor Reich has got this scenario somewhat backwards; and I think possibly, Obama has been playing a long chess game against Boehner, who has been playing checkers. (POSSIBLY)

The wild card is if the Republicans don't elect Boehner as Speaker.
+8 # BradFromSalem 2012-12-26 15:24
Can someone explain their negative vote? Is it assumed that by disagreeing with Robert Reich that you are a Right Wing crazy?
+19 # SundownLF 2012-12-26 15:49
I put in a positive vote, mostly in hopes that BradFromSalem is correct in his (your) description of what is going on.

Perhaps the negative votes are from those who don't believe Obama is playing a 'long' game. And we have seen him cave, often enough, over the past four years (for all the good it did him/us!) so there is now little trust...

My personal concern is that the Repugs have managed to get him to put Social Security and Medicare 'back on the table,' after all the promises about that not happening.
+4 # BradFromSalem 2012-12-27 06:50

You got my point about Hope. I even stated that my post was based on hope. Thanks.
+7 # Barbara K 2012-12-26 16:15
BFS: I put in a positive too. Don't understand why the negatives. I agree with you.

+3 # BradFromSalem 2012-12-27 06:48

Thanks. I really don't mind the negatives, I just would like to hear why. Usually, I get them because I didn't explain myself clearly or I am just being a wise ass and probably deserve it. This one I just didn't get the why.
+9 # readerz 2012-12-26 16:27
I didn't vote, because you didn't explain how Obama is "manacled in place by his constituency." He never felt "manacled" before; he has ignored anything progressive, even if it was part of the Democratic Platform. However, I do agree that the Republicans are fractured, but they are not fractured enough to vote with Boehner. I also disagree that Reich got it backwards (how?), but I do agree that Boehner is playing checkers, well, maybe not, more like tic-tac-toe.
+16 # bigkahuna671 2012-12-26 15:30
Sorry, Brad, but when has the GOP ever compromised with Pres. Obama? He gives in over and fact, the complaints regarding the Affordable Care Law are based on additions made to it by the GOP and accepted by the Dems to placate some of them into supporting the Bill. I do agree with you in stating that the Prez has been playing chess vice Boehner's playing checkers. If we do go over the cliff, the GOP will end up losing not a thing because their supporters don't (can't) read and get all their news from the talking heads (in the Marines, that's what we called 4-holers) and idiots like Hannity, O'Reilly, and Limbaugh could that way they won't have to do any real thinking.
+17 # banichi 2012-12-26 15:54
Do you really, actually believe that the Repuglicans are NOT locked into position? Even granted that Obama has been a disappointment to progressives, he has so far been unable or unwilling to call the bluffs (if that's what it is) of the right-winger Repugs and TPers who keep playing chicken with the economy.

I would be curious as to who you think Obama's constituency is that is manacling him in place? As far as I can see, the constituency that influences him the most is the banksters and corporatist criminals who use the revolving door described so well in the movie "Inside Job" and Matt Taibbi's articles. He even brought in Summers and Rubin as economic advisors, when they were responsible for pushing the Gramm-Leach-Bli ley act repealing Glass-Steagal - which cleared the way for the financial disaster of 2008, only 8 years later.

Robert Reich does not have his scenario backwards, but at this point if Obama really does come to some 'Grand Bargain' that hurts seniors, the poor, and the middle class, cutting Social Security (which is NOT an entitlement but paid for by citizens like me all my life) then that is going to be his legacy. Along with destroying the Constitutional freedoms, that is.

What he will really do, nobody knows. But we will ALL pay for it, I am sure.
+6 # BradFromSalem 2012-12-27 06:44

I really believe that a significant number of Republicans are not locked in. And, since the party is fractured the ones that are not locked in have to compromise from a very weakened position.

I believe Obama has actually heard the Progressive no cuts to SS loud and clear. I really doubt that there will be any chained CPI or other cuts made. The tax increase will likely be compromised to 400K or even 500K. I am not saying that Barack Obama is a Progressive! I also said that there I hope he is playing the long game. My reason for that hope is that so many issues have turned in his favor over time. It could be luck, but it also may be some smart gambles as well.

Lastly, it does appear that Obama is acking away from the Grand Bargain, which is good because that is basically handing the defined issues back into the Republican hands.

Of course the Constitutional freedoms are an issue, but lets get past these 4 years and make sure that we get a President in 2016 that will address that. There are just too many pieces of America tossed into the gutter since the Right gained control of the debate around 1978 to fix them all at once.
+4 # Bruce Gruber 2012-12-27 08:25
IF President Obama had a "long game" (principles for America's economic future to which he was committed, like FDR's Brain Trust), he would offer that vision for the Right Wing attack machine to oppose and progressives to rally behind.

If only such a "long plan" addressed (EVEN THEORETICALLY) the impending world climate crisis, the threat of religious righteousness, costs of governmental cleanup responsibilitie s in the wake of exploitative destruction of Earth's resources, and/or the challenge of medical science demands in a changing world.

UNFORTUNATELY it is more likely he is thumb tacking his greatness on the bulletin board of high school "most likely to"'s rather than commanding a Mount Rushmore recognition of greatness. We will be cajoled to grudging incremental compromise rather than being led to a new age of understanding and determination.
+56 # daddydt 2012-12-26 14:17
Couldn't agree with you more Dr. Reich. The only way to stop a bully is to call his bluff, and it's way past time the Democrats did exactly as you suggest.
+1 # Jonathan Levy 2012-12-28 15:14
But they have not interest in calling anyone's bluff as they work for the same puppet masters as the republicans. Get this through your impenetrable brain, please.
+30 # Averett 2012-12-26 14:31
Hate to over-simplify, but it all comes back to money. If the Democrats really wanted this gaming to stop they would use every instance of Republican blackmail to talk about exclusive public funding of campaigns and shutting down interest group funding (or at least full disclosure). But they don't. They get elected and they drop the ball - except to occasionally blame the Supremely-parti san Court.
It is time for independent progressives to move potential candidates to every Republican (and Blue Dog) district and launch a serious campaign to unseat these lobbyists. Then, the blackmailing will be to pursue a progressive agenda, including campaign finance reform, or be exposed as a lobbyist. After all, why should we tollerate any elected official voting for an item supported by or benefiting a contributor to his/her campaign? Clearly a conflict of interest; our interest.
+8 # readerz 2012-12-26 16:36
The only way to elect progressives in conservative areas is education of the conservatives of what is in their best interest. Hit them in areas that they believe in. They don't believe science, so show them in the Bible that we are supposed to take care of the earth and help other people.

I received an e-mail today from Jim Wallis (of Sojourners) who is and has always been a progressive Christian. He has just written a book about the Common Good (I'm not advertising, just pointing out that there is some efforts out there at educating people about what a real American agenda should be).

Not everybody is of the Christian religion, but for those that are, it will be necessary to reach out to all those "red" counties in both "red" and "blue" states with information about the need to support the "common good." This will be a very difficult and dangerous task at best, especially if these people go to churches which have been preaching that Obama is evil. It will take a lot of guts and even more knowledge about their positions to be able to achieve it.
+8 # flippancy 2012-12-26 19:12
Averett, that's why Obama should never have gotten rid of Howard Dean. With him in the driver's seat the Dems would never have lost the house.
+30 # Vardoz 2012-12-26 14:51
It was just reported on the news CNN that shopping was down 4.5% this year. Pretty much all of the red states have turned to the work for less crap where they pay workers $8 per hr. I was making $5 in 1973 and since then the cost of living has gone through the stratosphere. Not one economist who is knowledgable would go for auterity during what is still a recession. It will only impoverish the nation more. What we need is a bailout. Money needs to be invested inorder to create demand and NAFTA needs to be regulated so that some jobs are outsourced while others remain here. The health of the economy and the people of the nation needs to be taken into consideration. Corporations and those at the top do not give a damn about anything other then their profits and wealth and they are aggressively paying off our so called reps trading bribes for lives. If government is not functoning on behalf of the people the nation as a whole will not do well.
+36 # Nell H 2012-12-26 15:03
Giving in to the Republican/Tea Party brinksmanship is like giving in to a child's tantrums. It may bring a short-term peace, but encourages future bad behavior.
+41 # tadn54 2012-12-26 15:08
As a % of GDP, the taxes here are at around 15%, 119th out of 213 nations (source: the CIA World Fact Book
). Sweden, Norway, Canada, the UK, Belgium, Germany, and a hundred other nations, are anywhere from 35 to 60% of GDP--and have national health care. So, what are the 1% bitchin' about?

Our poverty rate is around 15% also, which, to me, is criminal. Come on up to Lower Wacker here in Chicago, and we can hunker down in freezing temps in a cardboard box with about 400 others. Doesn't this bother anyone with a heart and conscience? Whenever I'm there, I try to give rides to shelters for these pour souls, but most are beyond caring even. So I'll give them however much I have, and tell them to take care; that's all one can do sometimes.

When the GOP says the US has one of the highest tax rates in the world, their either lazy, or, more likely, stupid and greedy.
+25 # wherefore 2012-12-26 15:13
It has been a bluff all along, and not a cliff; Obama gave Republicans the rope to hand themselves, and they obliged. Those who complained that he shouldn't have offered to compromise weren't paying attention; public statements are seldom reflective if what is really going on. He knew he wouldn't have to make good on his offers; they fell right into his trap. Taxes will rise, defense spending will be cut, and then Congress can resolve the most onerous aspects of the automatic changes one at a time, from a better vantage point.
+15 # Vardoz 2012-12-26 15:52
This is what I am being told and I hope it is true.
+23 # Buddha 2012-12-26 15:16
This is the other "unintended" consequence to Gerrymandering. Not only does it have the intended result of diluting the voting power of "the other side" and make your own Party's districts difficult to take in an election, it also results in forcing you to take an extremely partisan approach legislatively. In those GOP gerrymandered districts, they don't have to worry about challenges from their Left. But they DO have to worry about challenges from their RIGHT, getting Primaryied out of a job. So, even "moderate" GOP in these districts can't do what is necessary or compromise to reach an agreement, or their Tea Party nutjob base is going to Primary them for crimes against GOP orthodoxy...
+5 # banichi 2012-12-26 16:00
Very good point, Buddha! I guess this is what is meant by 'hung on their own petard' if I recall the quote correctly!
+2 # flippancy 2012-12-26 19:14
Quoting Banichi:
Very good point, Buddha! I guess this is what is meant by 'hung on their own petard' if I recall the quote correctly!

"Hoist on their own petard", but it means the same.
+1 # mim 2012-12-27 00:11
A petard is a bomb, so being hoist on one's own petard is being thrown in the air by one's own bomb.
-1 # Dotty 2012-12-26 15:37
I get sick hearing the president talk about growing the middle class. What about the poor and the seniors? Now he is going to take from the seniors and poor to give to the middle class, give us a break!
+7 # robniel 2012-12-26 16:21
Quoting Dotty:
Now he is going to take from the seniors and poor to give to the middle class,

It's not possible to grow (restore) the economy without "growing" the middle class. I see no evidence "he" is going to take from the seniors and poor to "give" to the middle class.
+5 # ghostperson 2012-12-26 22:34
Without a vibrant middle class of wage eaners who cannot easily hide their income because withholding is mandated as is Social Security in a majority of cases, the plight of the poor and seniors (of which I am one) will be infinitely worse.

The rich pay capital gains rates as primary taxes and avoid "wage" situations.Many use tax credits and like devices to avoid paying any taxes. E.g. GE Capital gains rates(15%) are lower than the average tax rate of 24% paid by wage earners.

Without a working middle class to sustain the economy a number of things happen: (1) there is no ladder out of the lower class meaning that we have a permanent underclass, (2) more people use unemployment benefits, Social Security, disability and similar programs, (3)accordingly government deficits rise and (4) revenue drastically drops.

It isn't an either or proposition. The middle class is the life's blood of our economy if it is to function other than it does now--primarily for the benefit of the ultra-wealthy and multi-national corpoations.

The working class, whether employed or not, has not come up with an effective counter strategy to blow plutocrats and their handmaidens in government out of the water. The numbers are on the side of the working class should an effective strategy for countering the 1% be found and communicated effectively to the populace.
+11 # C.H.Winslow 2012-12-26 15:38
It might be wise to think two ways about these dilemmas, depending on who swerves first. (Remember, in the Strong Chicken Game, the fanatical driver gets killed if his opponent [who also gets killed] calls his bluff. In this scenario, we get killed; our lobbyist congressmen just watch us wreck). If Obama swerves first, the government just kicks the can down the road, and the lobbyists for the One percent win to try the tactic when the game of chicken is played "down the road". If the Tea Party swerves first, we get on with government in a modern state and continue to pick up the pieces from their previous (W) wreck. If both drive on (over the cliff), the game is over, and what Averett recommends is the only course for modern members of the middle class, whether Republicans, Democrats, or Independents. People, responding to civic duty, must go to work immediately to unseat the minority of the House (but majority of the majority) who let us go over the cliff. I personally hope that Obama does not swerve. {It might be possible to get a new speaker from a minority of House Republicans added to the House Democrats, but I do not believe there enough GOP in the House who would take that courageous but radical step}. Put pressure directly on movable House GOP is one way; getting started with a campaign to replace them is another. Either way, we do also need to do the latter. I plan to begin my efforts in this regard in Ohio and Kentucky.
+8 # readerz 2012-12-26 16:56
We have to begin somewhere.

I assume the worst, and hope for the best. I assume that they will gut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and destroy many other supports for the poor, sick, and elderly. I have to assume this: my husband has cancer, and without him, and without a job, I will be unable to pay for my own medical care. It isn't a game of bluff for us; the stress alone has been making my husband's illness worse; it is already a crash, already killing people.

This isn't a game; that's something that goes right over Congress's and the President's heads: somehow they do not think that there are real people that are going to be affected by their games. I have tried not to pay too close attention (except telling them not to take away SS, Medicare, and Medicaid), because I am already stressed out enough.

America has been called an "experiment" of democracy sometimes; I think the Republicans want to call it a "game of chance."
+4 # tpmco 2012-12-26 17:48
Just because you are driving a Harley, you still shouldn't play chicken with a semi.
+2 # Bruce Gruber 2012-12-27 07:53
A LEADER is one who accepts being despised by those who disagree with the policies and decisions, the goals toward which he/she is leading. That is the price of being willing to lead.

A POLITICIAN is one who seeks the appearance of progress or resolution of differences while accepting the half-'truth' that allows half-a-can to continue rolling down the road while basking in the glow of 'compromise'. Hardly the stuff of which generals are made.

Focus groups don't strengthen leadership qualities. They castrate leadership tendencies ... JUST A THOUGHT!
+4 # readerz 2012-12-26 16:48
Look at a map of Congressional districts in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Boehner is from Ohio, in one of those gerrymandered districts, and he is an example of why gerrymandering is very bad.

I hate to say it, but doesn't this speak for the need for a Constitutional Amendment?

My wish list would also include the Senate: if it is not supposed to reflect population, then the Senate at the very least should never need a "super-majority " beyond 51 votes for appointments, bills, and the like, because those low-population states can block any bill, any appointment, or any business of this country at all with those "Senate rules" that force them to have 2/3 majority for many items. Yes, blame Wyoming and Alaska, not just Cheney and Palin, for the kinds of tp attitudes that have brought our country to its knees.
+1 # flippancy 2012-12-26 19:18
Sadly, the filibuster is necessary to prevent the minority from being steamrollered, but there MUST be reasonable limits on it. Maybe the Senators filibustering should have to represent 40% or more of the people. The scumsucking Republicans with their record numbers of filibusters represented 16% of the population. That is not acceptable.
+9 # medusa 2012-12-26 17:03
The Republicans pose as if they had a plan, with Mr Boehner in charge, and they look at OB as a lonely pedestrian in the gunsights. I hope the President doesn't flinch. We elected him and we want him to tell them to kiss off.
+7 # Ray Kondrasuk 2012-12-26 17:06
If the Bush tax cuts expire, how much more will we pay?

Curious, I dug into our dusty files and plugged our 2011's Adjusted Gross Income into the 2000 IRS tax table, the last year of the Clinton rates.

Results: from 2011's 13.89% of AGI to a 2012 17.21%, or...for us... an additional $2,018 in federal tax.

We'll manage somehow. Our income doesn't reach even a quarter of the $250K-subject-t o-taxation that Obama campaigned on. We're retired teachers, so we'll have to find a bargain brand of caviar...

Do some back-of-the-env elope scratchin' yerselfs... whatcha come up with?
+13 # readerz 2012-12-26 18:21
While I don't publicize income, I can immediately tell one thing: in 2010, 2011, and 2012 my family has had to pay:
$100 per month ($1200) co-insurance for medical benefits from my husband's employee plan;
$4000 per year for the hospital costs (our portion, the cap at the top for the hospital);
$25 per every two week visits (about $600 per year) for the oncologist co-pays that are not covered by the hospital cap;
various prescription drugs (about $600 per year):
All tolled: $6600 per year. This does not count other services we have needed, or more heat in our house, due to his and my disabilities. Nor the extra gas because he no longer drives.

Now, if I add an extra couple thousand to that, I'm sorry, but we will be very strained. I am not willing to pay it, but I will wait and see, because there is no way that we can afford to have many more thousands than that cut from Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, so I will just have to cut something nice from our lives. My husband and I are in our 50s, and he probably won't reach 65.

If you have enough money that it doesn't matter, then you can afford more taxes anyway. It does matter to us, but it is a life and death situation for us right now that we can't afford to capitulate on.
+5 # tpmco 2012-12-27 01:11
I can empathize with your circumstances, and I can't say for sure "don't worry". But I don't think the incoming Congress will allow the tax increase on the middle class to stand for long, and the resulting legislation restoring tax rates to the middle class will at least keep you treading water.

Personally, I look forward to being able to call that legislation the "Obama tax cuts for the rest of us".
+2 # Ray Kondrasuk 2012-12-27 10:14

My heart is touched; thank you for sharing your concerns, for they are widely held.

We are fortunate to wear a money belt that can be tightened a notch without seriously affecting our financial health; my point, I hoped, was to show that if we could manage, then the Obama-targeted $1/4-million-pl us people should not feel a squeeze on their own vital signs and would easily bear the the increases that weigh heavily on the basic care you describe.

I'm saving both the main article and our serious exchange. Thank you.
+10 # rhythm 2012-12-26 17:21
Woritten when Gingrinch ruled the house seems to apply today

Less government is our rallying theme
As we tell you how to live don't you dare make a scene
Give us your tired, your poor, your elderly, and sick
If they'd lived better lives they wouldn't get our sharp stick
Too bad how life dealt them this lot
Help only goes to them that's got
Tax breaks will soon be on the way
For our friends who don't want to pay
Trickle down didn't work before
But you've forgotten so we'll try it once more
We'll play on your fears that some get a free ride
When the only ones that do are on the inside
Sorry you've no food on your table
Don't get sick cause you might not be able
To pay for your health
Unless you've got lots of wealth
Kick the can and delay
Will be our answer for today
+14 # Kathymoi 2012-12-26 18:06
Keep social security, medicare, medicaid, schools, roads, bridges, jobs, and tax the richest people in the country their fair share. If that is going over the cliff, -----let's go.
+11 # giraffee2012 2012-12-26 18:31
Dear President Obama: Do NOT sacrifice any cuts to the 47% or 99% - and stand your ground. On January 2, 2013 those Dems (who have can bring a bill to the floor ... to "mend" the cliff for the 47-99% (you know the story)

The only + for the 47-99% (for there are many minuses if we go over the cliff) is watching the "tears" run down Boner's yellow-orange face. Fox had better have that picture too since the other big 5 will show the clip!
+10 # F Michael Addams 2012-12-26 18:43
To the Cliff...!

Don't forget that if we go off the cliff, we land in a completely new policy world !

So the Democrats don't have to be bound by any deal they made before the new policy world comes into effect. It's 2013 and the Democrats will be able to propose tax cuts and policy changes based on the new tax and spending baseline, not the baseline that we have now !

So, first on the agenda, ...See More
+6 # SOF 2012-12-26 18:55
Maybe if we are delayed, there will be more time to propose
entitlement savings -like ending Congressional free health insurance for life. Or pinpointing military programs that should be cut, Proposing end to big pharma advantage in Obmacare and Medicaid. Blah blah. Actually I totally depend on SS now, but I'm very creative and practical and pissed.
+4 # angelfish 2012-12-26 19:57
As a former Psychiatric and Mental Health R.N., it is CLEAR to me that the ReTHUGlicans have lost their collective minds in favor of the Nazi/Fascist Hard Liner's REFUSAL to act rationally in this, one of the gravest times in our National history. It is an indication of their fanaticism and intractability in the face of dire consequences that will affect us ALL. As usual, the poor and Middle Classes will bear the brunt of the misery, however the Mega-Wealthy will not come out altogether unscathed. Aside from stripping them all of their Self Righteous facade of "respectable Christianity", it shows how remarkable STUPID they all REALLY are when "Push comes to Shove"! The "chips" WILL fall where they may. How sad that they weren't willing to give a little to save so MUCH! A POX on ALL the selfish Basta*ds who hold sway in Washington. May their tribe DECREASE!
+4 # Vardoz 2012-12-26 20:27
Not creating jobs with fare wages is a serious threat to the health, safety and welfare of the American people!


+5 # The Voice of Reason 2012-12-26 21:35
Two years ago, the dums had a super majority less one vote, and they caved with Pres. Obama saying he would 'take Speaker Boehner at his word' with only the threat of a filibuster. Finally we're back at the end of the line. What was it Teddy Kennedy said, 'we'll drive off that bridge when we get there'? We're here. Hold your breath we're going over. It'll be fun. No one is going to blink, and Obama can't either.
+6 # sk8sonh2o 2012-12-26 21:35
After Jan 1 the same compromises look a lot better on House voting records. Before Jan 1 any compromise looks like hiking taxes on the rich. After Jan 1 it's called new tax cuts for the 98%. Likewise, before Jan 1 any deal looks like accepting cuts to the military and and programs. After Jan 1 the same budget is called increasing the military budget and increasing program benefits. And - if there's a deal before Jan 1, Bush gets the credit for cutting taxes, but after Jan 1 Obama can call them the Obama tax cuts.
+4 # RICHARDKANEpa 2012-12-26 22:15
Quoting sk8sonh2o:
After Jan 1 the same compromises look a lot better on House voting records. Before Jan 1 any compromise looks like hiking taxes on the rich. After Jan 1 it's called new tax cuts for the 98%. Likewise, before Jan 1 any deal looks like accepting cuts to the military and and programs. After Jan 1 the same budget is called increasing the military budget and increasing program benefits. And - if there's a deal before Jan 1, Bush gets the credit for cutting taxes, but after Jan 1 Obama can call them the Obama tax cuts.

Thanks sk for bringing us back to reality,

There was calls by Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich and incredibly 30 others for Defense Cuts. There was no military cuts after the Cold War ended. It is like an uncontrollable growth. Another name for uncontrollable growth is cancer.

Google, when it comes on line, Dennis Kucinich and Lame Duck, He Might Soar Rather Than Wind Down
+4 # readerz 2012-12-27 00:53
I am upset that Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich was gerrymandered out of his seat in the house, but I hope that we hear a lot more from him in the next few years.
+4 # tpmco 2012-12-27 01:23
I'm on board with that.
+7 # charsjcca 2012-12-26 22:14
Forward. There is a very large mattress just below the cliff's edge. It is called the will of the people. Over the cliff!!!
+3 # FDRva 2012-12-26 22:40
How about Congress just repeal the Cliff?'

After all there would be no current fiscal cliff debate--if Wall Street had not pressured Congress to create an unconstitutiona l super-committee to slash the budget--with an unconstitutiona l default to automatic budget cuts should the super-committee fail to enact Wall Street's agenda.

The legislation was Wall Street's version of 'Heads I win. tails you lose.'

And that noted Wall Street-promoted progressive Barry Obama failed to mention this scam because...
+3 # FDRva 2012-12-27 00:16
It should be noted--contrary to right wing propaganda accepted by most Dem pols--that there is no magic 'national debt' number that brings on the apocalypse.

So why the rush to siphon money from entitlements to Wall Street?

Especially since that 'national debt' includes a whole lot of hand-outs and bailouts to Wall Street--many of them off-budget and bigger than TARP.

I would not be surprised if Barry Obama--Wall Street's gift to the Democratic Party--tries to privatize Social Security.

All in the name of bi-partisanship , of course.
+2 # rlhollow 2012-12-26 23:20
Pardon my overly simplistic thinking, but.... There was a Presidential campaign followed by an election, both based upon tax-cuts for the first $250,000 of income and no trimming of Social Security or Medicare/Medica id. Please, Democrats, do not let the Republican's game of Chicken decide against the voters' choice.
+4 # Smokey 2012-12-27 06:56
All of the above is a reminder that the big corporations - and the Tea Party, and its various supporters - are still alive and kicking in American politics.

Obama won a great victory in November but he didn't gain control of the House and American politics didn't move very far to the left. There's lots of talk about "the new majority" and that sort of thing but we're still far removed from economic and social justice. Brace yourself for some difficult moments in American politics.
+2 # sapereaudeprime 2012-12-27 12:18
I think the Tea Party zealots may not be able to count beyond their digits, or they'd know that they are drastically outnumbered by citizens who have military training, hunting experience and firearms, and will be very annoyed if they don't get their Social Security and Medicare "entitlements" that they've paid into all their working lives. We could see the eradication of the far right in a bloodbath reminiscent of France in 1789, or Russia in 1918. Sadly, these situations usually end in a dictatorship; let's hope it doesn't happen here.
+2 # dgillman 2012-12-27 13:17
Why is it that Boehner insists on getting a majority of republicans in order to pass a bill? Where is it in the constitution that the house must pass a bill with a majority from a single party? If he wants to work to help the country and pass a bill that a clear majority of Americans want, then why not cobble together a group of democrats and republicans that can get behind some legislation? Doing that is my idea of what a statesman is. He appears to be content to remain a politician and of course remain elected.
+2 # 2012-12-28 23:36
No,Robert, the deal is to give the Republicans wiggle room to call a tax hike a tax cut. Black is white. They did it all throughout the campaign; why stop now? I do not see this newly minted, second-term president being as polite to the not-so-loyal opposition as he was in his first term. Why should he. Let the Republicans take the fall for us going over the cliff. At that point, when all the tax increases kick in, sometime in January, they will accept the president's plan and call it a tax cut for the middle class. Hell, they will probably take credit for it!
+1 # jstick 2012-12-30 01:33
"The White House’s hope of getting the Senate to pass legislation that raises taxes on the wealthy in order to pressure Boehner won’t work because the legislation can’t possibly get through the House."
Robert: the White House doesn't have to convince the Senate (or the House) to raise taxes on the wealthy. That happens automatically at midnight December 31 with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.
And, note, it is not a tax increase, it is merely a restoration of the tax rates of the Clinton administration -- the most prosperous years of the 20th century.
+1 # Bruce Gruber 2012-12-30 08:32
FIFTEEN HOURS TILL MIDNIGHT! Whether we have leaders with vision or politicians with an eye to status quo and self-preservati on will be determined in the next few ticks of the clock.

Although an Executive with vision and determination could LEAD us through this fog of contrived uncertainty, there's no excited expectation of a future with a positive outcome.

Instead we discouragingly anticipate among differing slope angles on the downward spiral of incomes, employment, education, environmental concern including air, food and water quality, basic Constitutional protections and guarantees, peace, and cooperation among differing interpretations of what 'freedom' means.

The most likely outcome is a plutocrat owned media heralding an agreement to "kick the can" of decision-making down the road for a couple of months to allow pundits to sell the theory that it is too expensive to care about sick, old, poor or less educated 'disposables' among us AND that the greatest investment of our labor and toil should be taxation that eradicates the nebulous 'terrorism' that hates our (somewhat unsuccessful) way of life ... while (of course)keeping exemptions from most taxes to insure that the wealthy and their heirs continue to grow in power and influence so they may maintain their status as "Job Creators".

I hope to toast the twelfth bell as the 'do nothings' are forced to deal with what they have broken because no REAL leaders have voice.
0 # Bruce Gruber 2012-12-30 09:39
I would enjoy an AD LIB full day debate on ALL national media hosted by Bill Maher and Rush Limbaugh featuring Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Rand Paul and Paul Ryan debating Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Alan Grayson and Sherrod Brown.

Plans and policies for a NEW AND BETTER FUTURE could be the focus. No speeches, talking point memos or teleprompters ... hosts would be free to inject 10 second comments ... offerings by participants would be limited to 60 seconds, speakers would be selected by pressing the button and CUT OFF at 60 seconds.

I bet the ratings would exceed ALL reality TV.

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