“We are not a deadbeat nation... So we've got to pay our bills. And Republicans in Congress have two choices here. They can act responsibly, and pay America's bills, or they can act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis. But they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy ... We've got to stop lurching from crisis to crisis to crisis when there's this clear path ahead of us that simply requires some discipline, some responsibility, and some compromise. That's where we need to go. That's how this needs to work.”—POTUS
“Right away, everyone wants to know what's to be cut. Whatever you all settle on cutting, it should not be science. Investment in science is investment in innovation. New ideas are what keep the U.S. economy driving forward.”—Bill Nye on Fiscal Cliffhanging, on the Huffington Post.
“Now, there's one thing you might have noticed I don't complain about: politicians. Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don't fall out of the sky. They don't pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from American parents and American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses and American universities, and they are elected by American citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It's what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you're going to get selfish, ignorant leaders. Term limits ain't going to do any good; you're just going to end up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant Americans. So, maybe, maybe, maybe, it's not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here... like, the public. Yeah, the public sucks. There's a nice campaign slogan for somebody: 'The Public Sucks. F*ck Hope.”—
This is kind of how I feel about people waiting to blame someone for the Fiscal Cliff.
“Under this law, more than 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small business will not see their income taxes go up. Millions of families will continue to receive tax breaks to help raise their kids and send them to college. Companies will continue to receive tax credits for the research that they do and investments they make and the clean energy jobs that they create. And two million Americans who are out of work -- but out there looking, pounding the pavement every day -- are gonna continue to receive unemployment benefits as long as they're actively looking for a job. But I think we all recognize this law is just one step in the broader effort to strengthen our economy and broaden opportunity for everybody. The fact is the deficit is still too high. And we're still investing too little in the things that we need for the economy to grow as fast as it should. That's why Speaker Boehner and I originally tried to negotiate a larger agreement that would put this country on a path to paying down its debt, while also putting Americans back to work, rebuilding our roads and bridges, and providing investment in areas like education and job training. Unfortunately, there just wasn't enough support or time for that kind of large agreement in a lame-duck session of Congress. And that failure comes with a cost, as the messy nature of the process over the past several weeks has made business more uncertain, and consumers less confident. But we are continuing to chip away at this problem, step by step. Last year, I signed into law $1.7 trillion in deficit reduction. Tonight's agreement further reduces the deficit by raising $620 billion in revenue from the wealthiest households in America, and there will be more deficit reduction as Congress decides what to do about the automatic spending cuts that we have now delayed for two months. ... As I've demonstrated throughout the past several weeks, I am very open to compromise. I agree with Democrats and Republicans that the aging population and the rising cost of healthcare makes Medicare the biggest contributor to our deficit. I believe we've gotta find ways to reform that program without hurting seniors who count on it to survive. And I believe there's further unnecessary spending in government that we can eliminate. But we can't simply cut our way to prosperity. Cutting spending has to go hand-in-hand with further reforms to our tax code so that the wealthiest corporations and individuals can't take advantage of loopholes and deduction that aren't available to most Americans. And we can't keep cutting things like basic research and new technology and still expect to succeed in a 21st-century economy. So we're gonna have to continue to move forward in deficit reduction, but we have to do it in a balanced way -- making sure that we are growing, even as we get a handle on our spending. ... While I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they've already racked up through the laws that they passed. Let me repeat: we can't not pay bills that we've already incurred. If Congress refuses to give the United States government the ability to pay these bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy would be catastrophic -- far worse than the impact of the fiscal cliff. People will remember back in 2011, the last time this course of action (over the debt ceiling) was threatened, our entire recovery was put at risk: consumer confidence plunged; business investment plunged; growth dropped. We can't go down that path again.”—President BARACK OBAMA
“To even entertain the idea of this happening, of the United States of America not paying its bills, is irresponsible. It’s absurd. As the speaker said two years ago, it would be -- and I’m quoting Speaker Boehner now -- “a financial disaster not only for us but for the worldwide economy.” So we got to pay our bills. And Republicans in Congress have two choices here: They can act responsibly and pay America’s bills or they can act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis. But they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy. The financial well-being of the American people is not leverage to be used. The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip. And they’d better choose quickly because time is running short. The last time Republicans in Congress even flirted with this idea, our triple-A credit rating was downgraded for the first time in our history, our businesses created the fewest jobs of any month in nearly the past three years, and ironically, the whole fiasco actually added to the deficit. ”—
President Obama, Jan 14, 2013
We have to end the Republican nihilism.
The Only Way Left to Beat Republican Fanatics: Call Their Bluff and Go Over the Cliff
President 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.