Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Monday, November 12, 2012

The “Fiscal Cliff” and the Fog of Peace-Making

Obama’s Chicago conspiracy to transform the Hope of Mankind into a decadent safe house obviously has its limits.

Sexual misconduct remains one of Washington’s rare unpardonable sins. CIA director David Petraeus resigns for having an affair. On the same day, Paul Ryan gets to keep his job as Chair of the House Budget Committee after spending six weeks publicly betraying his own budget and sounding less trustworthy than Bill Clinton.

The fates of these two public servants would be reversed if the times truly demanded the services of the very best. Washington would be a lot harder on politicians who turn out to be phony politicians.

Also, leaders wouldn’t get away with bad math and non-answers, and Washington journalists would stop being so willing to find "movement," "courage," and "statesmanship" in reading between the lines.

Week One of the Lame Duck Congress’ showdown on the “Fiscal Cliff" is starting out on a hopeful note, we're told by press aids and political weather forecasters. In truth, nothing that was said last week by the President and his chief adversary House Speaker John Boehner narrowed the differences; nothing they promised voters in Ohio and across the country has been surrendered, whittled down, or misplaced.

Obama quietly reiterated that he won and he had promised to raise income taxes on the top 2% of Americans. John Boehner quietly acknowledged the unavoidable: the President will “lead.”

Obama is on the record: his proposed budget seeks some $440 billion in new tax revenues over 10 years. He’d get started on January 1st next year by letting the Bush tax cuts on the top 2% expire. He’s obviously open to other ideas about how to get the money. However, on the face of it, John Boehner’s response is not a serious alternative or even pregnant with possibilities.

He’s not yet willing to be led.

“It’s clear that there are a lot of special-interest loopholes in the tax code, both corporate and personal,” Mr. Boehner said in response to a question. “It’s also clear that there are all kinds of deductions, some of which make sense; others don’t. And by lowering rates and cleaning up the tax code, we know that we’re going to get more economic growth. It’ll bring jobs back to America. It’ll bring more revenue.”

This is exactly the supply-side thesis that has been Republican gospel for 30 years. It’s the same mischief that Romney couldn’t sell in the election. It simply relies on wanting more growth than the other guy and pretends to Americans: “If you don’t feel you’re a ‘special interest,’ you won’t be asked by me to give your government any more.”

Last week’s Republican messaging was only designed to confuse Obama’s message. As with immigration reform, Obama would be wise to sell his own ideas for a little while longer and wait for the Republicans to blink.

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