Call His Bluff, Mr. President

Image of Barack Obama

Do elections really matter? There are millions of people in this country who would say no, and President Barack Obama might be proving them right with his milquetoast “fiscal cliff” negotiations.

Are the same liberals who fought so hard to reelect Obama in November now getting left behind by a president apparently too afraid to stand up to right-wing extremists on tax policy and too willing to cut the basic living sustenance of millions of the country’s elderly? It looks like it right now.

For anyone living under a rock, the so-called fiscal cliff is a series of drastic cuts in federal spending that are scheduled to go into effect at the first of the year. The Bush-era tax cuts are also scheduled to expire. Congress has to do something about it or middle-class Americans will be paying more in taxes, and states will lose much-needed federal money. Defense cuts will also go into effect.

Obama says he wants the tax cuts to only expire for people with higher incomes, but his definition of higher incomes keeps inching upwards. It used to be for people who have incomes of $250,000 a year. The president, for the sake of compromise, changed that to $400,000 in negotiations. House Speaker Boehner has now countered with $1 million annually under his so-called Plan B, and he wants to bring it to a vote in the Republican-dominated House. Boehner’s plan also will cut some taxes for the rich so, in essence, it really doesn’t amount to a substantial increase in revenues. It also raises taxes for certain low-income and middle-class taxpayers with children.

Meanwhile, the president has apparently agreed to a plan that would change the formula in how future Social Security benefit increases would be calculated. That would lead to cuts in benefits, and, worse, set a precedent for future income cuts for the nation’s most vulnerable citizens.

I’ve always considered Obama a centrist, not a liberal, so I’m not too surprised he’s ready to give his stamp of approval to the neoliberal status quo. I did, however, believe he would put up a stronger fight against what the Republicans call “entitlement reform,” which is really just a shift of income from the middle class to the wealthy.

I also believed he had learned the lesson that the present-day Republican Party on the national level doesn’t negotiate, doesn’t compromise, and has perfected the arts of political backstabbing and rhetorical subterfuge.

This is what must happen now, and liberals should push for it: The president needs to go to the American people, explain the latest Republican treachery in the simplest terms possible and then let the country go over the metaphorical fiscal cliff. It’s time for this constant charade of negotiations to end.

Let’s see who the country blames for increased taxes and drastic cuts in government spending. Call the bluff, Mr. President.