Debate Club

Obama's Tactics, GOP's Stance on Taxes Both Need Changing


The fact that the Senate Democrats failed to get 60 votes to deal with the automatic spending cuts yesterday should be no surprise, but both parties are the losers. The president's consistent "going public" strategy does little to motivate Congress and the Republicans' refusal to budge on taxes increases is pure folly.

Going public is like pouring water into a bottomless glass. The technique works well for presidents when they're selling easy to understand proposals, such as sending troops to some global hot spot or putting sanctions on a rouge state. It doesn't work when marketing the minutia of a complex spending reduction plan. Most of the public doesn't understand sequestration and the rest aren't paying attention. You'd be hard pressed to find many who could explain the Bowles-Simpson proposal or summarize how raising or lowering taxes influences income distribution. The president's expectation that the public will effectively pressure Republicans to concede is magical thinking.

[See a collection of political cartoons on sequestration and the fiscal cliff.]

The administration should be focused on bargaining: those behind-the-scenes conversations that generate consensus—a solution that gives all involved a win they can take back to their constituents. However, the administration long lost this option. President Obama has made little effort since his 2008 Inauguration to build a rapport with the GOP. The fact that his first sequestration meeting with House Speaker John Boehner is scheduled to take place on "deadline" Friday says a lot about Obama's regard for closing the deal.

However, the Republicans "this is a spending problem, not a revenue problem" mantra is equally bad. It's both problems, and allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to remain in place is a nonstarter. These cuts have cost the U.S. Treasury $4.6 trillion over the last 12 years. No matter how much the GOP argues to the contrary, this is why the government can't pay for itself. The Bush-era tax cuts offer no other benefit than to keep the I.O.U printers employed. Republicans must change their stance on tax increases, regardless of any reelection risks they may face in next year's midterm elections.

There is one winner: Seth Macfarlane. This week's sequester talk got us to forget all about his Oscar opening song "We saw your boobs."

Jamie Chandler

About Jamie Chandler Political Scientist at Hunter College

Obama, Barack
Democratic Party

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