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LostInParadise's avatar

Do the Democrats have the upper hand on the fiscal cliff issue?

Asked by LostInParadise (17944 points ) December 29th, 2012

I am a lifelong Democrat, but I am trying to look at this as objectively as possible.

There seems to be agreement by economists over the complete political spectrum that if nothing is done about the measures that kick in next year, we will go into another recession, just as the economy is starting to recover.

Obama is asking for a vote on measures that everyone agrees on. Keeping taxes from going up for income rates less than $250,000 benefits everyone. Even millionaires would keep their current tax break on the first 250K of their income. By holding out for a tax break for the top 1%, Obama has used the very effective line that the Republicans are holding everyone hostage to the top 1%. Once there is a vote on what we all agree on, the Republicans can bring up additional measures, which they of course do not have a snowball’s chance in Hell of getting passed. That is too bad for them. If they do not have the votes, then their measures should not be passed.

It is possible that there are enough Republican votes in the House for the measure to pass on a bipartisan basis, but Boehner is refusing to even allow the measure to come to the floor because of his very anti-democratic requirement that a bill needs a “majority of the majority” to reach the floor.

Polling indicates that Obama has a sizable majority of the public behind him, and that people will be holding the Republicans to blame for a failure to compromise. In an off-year election like the one in 2014, the Republicans would ordinarily be expected to pick up seats. If we go into another recession with the Republicans being held to blame, they are going to be facing unfavorable odds in the election, even if they can avoid being lynched.

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14 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

It’s not over until it’s over. Expect a last minute compromise. By last minute, I mean it could be a few days into the new year. They will stop the clock, if it seems like they are making progress. Hell, they may stop the clock, anyway.

Boehner is holding out because he needs to get as much as he can. He can not settle until he has pushed the President as far as possible. This is all standard negotiating. They need to whip up anxiety among the people so that people will believe that each side has gotten the best deal it possibly could have.

For that to happen, they cannot be close until the last moment. It is theater, in a way, but it is also necessary and serious. As long as Boehner does make a deal in the end, he is ok. And he will. Although he can’t make a deal until he has been reelected as speaker of the house, which suggests that the deal will not come until Jan 3rd or so. Or the day after he is reelected, whenever that is.

Jaxk's avatar

The last poll I saw showed the public will blame republicans 44% or Obama 36%. That’s not really a sizable majority. Obama is holding the 99% hostage to his tax hikes while Boehner is holding the 99% hostage to the 1% as well. I don’t see much difference in thier tactics. Obama does have an advantage in that he is very, very good at blaming others. It’s unfortunate that this whole issues rests on who gets the blame rather than what is workable.

I wonder who gets the blame for the dairy cliff?

glacial's avatar

I don’t think there will be an eleventh hour reprieve. I think the US will go over the cliff. So the tax cuts expire – ok. Then the next thing is to introduce new cuts for middle- to lower-income Americans. The Republicans look like pouting brats, and the Dems look like they’re trying to help the average guy. Win for the Dems.

But Republicans won’t actually care, because the only people whose opinion matters to them are the 1% – and all they want is for the Repubs to oppose ending the cuts. So as long as they stick to their guns (if such a phrase can be used for doing absolutely nothing), they win too.

Everybody wins if it goes over the cliff – at least politically. Some citizens are going to be screwed for things like unemployment benefits in the short term, until a deal is reached (though 20 years from now, no one will remember that). And the world’s opinion of the US sinks again, because they can’t be trusted to keep their shit together long enough to pay bills they already promised to pay. But when was the last time an American politician gave a damn what the rest of the world thought?

marinelife's avatar

They have the populace behind them, but I’m not sure that matters.

jerv's avatar

Given that the public perception is that Republicans are largely to blame for the situation and have no practical solutions (aside from amplifying the causes of the problem) and the fact that most of your neutral parties side more with Obama than the republicans, I think that the Democrats have an edge here.

The problem is that nearly half of our country voted for Romney, and naturally distrust any politician with a D after their name, so any edge the Dems have is slight. This is compounded by the sad truth that actual facts mean less to many people than their own political leanings; the only reality that can possibly exist is the one that proves than 250% correct.

CWOTUS's avatar

Being committed to either of the major parties in the USA seems to me to be akin to choosing between the Nazis and the Soviets. Ooh, who will win this time?

My money continues to be on the partisans blowing up the tracks and assassinating the officers. Well, them and the whores. At least the whores are generally honest.

LostInParadise's avatar

@Jaxk , According to Gallup, Obama and the Democrats get respectively 54% and 45% approval on the issue versus 26% for the Republicans. Those are not good numbers for the Republicans.

What I am saying is very simple. Let’s vote on what we all agree upon, and then allow additional time for discussion and voting on what we do not universally agree on. Not allowing a vote on what we all agree on is my idea of holding the public hostage to the interests of the 1%.

jerv's avatar

@LostInParadise One problem there; the Republicans will not agree on anything that the Democrats would go for. There have been things that the Republicans held up in order to get concessions from the Dems that eventually got votes like 96–4 once they were finally allowed to come to a vote. We are dealing with a party that will argue that the sky is green simply because Democrats say it is blue.

In short, there is nothing economic that the two parties will agree on unless the GOP gets concessions. I wish it were not so, but recent history has proven that it is.

glacial's avatar

@jerv They were already offered concessions, and they still said no. They will never say yes.

jerv's avatar

@glacial Anything less than everything is nothing to them.

LostInParadise's avatar

I am optimistic that a deal will be reached. They are not going to be willing to risk political suicide to avoid raising taxes. Besides, if there is no deal by the end of the year, the tax increases will automatically kick in, allowing the Republicans to selectively lower taxes, technically allowing them to say that they did not vote for tax increases. And they are crazy enough for that to make a difference.

AngryWhiteMale's avatar

The Democrats have the upper hand, but they’re blowing it. It doesn’t help that the Republicans are continuing their strategy of saying “no” to just about everything, in addition to controlling the House, where all bills dealing with appropriations must start (although the Senate does have ways around this, it’s still a formidable barrier to deal with). The fact that cuts are on the table for just about all programs and departments doesn’t inspire confidence in me they’ll do the right thing.

Eh. At this point, it’s not whether there will be cuts or not, but how much to cut and where. I’m afraid that as usual, the poor, the disabled, children, veterans, and the elderly will suffer just so the rich can keep their money. Whether they get in under the wire or not with this “fiscal cliff” nonsense, we’re all going to suffer for their stupidity and short-sightedness.

jerv's avatar

@AngryWhiteMale That depends on how long Congress retains power. At the very least, I see things shaking up in 2014 (lots of incumbents and Republicans losing), and that assumes that we don’t get all “torches and pitchforks” before then.

CWOTUS's avatar

It’s interesting that you pose the question as “Democrats having the upper hand” (as opposed to “Republicans having the upper hand”, of course).

The only thing that is certain is that we will all lose, no matter which party “wins”. And of course, no matter what happens, both parties will claim “victory”, too.

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