In September I wrote a blog post favoring going over the so-called fiscal cliff (click) because, let’s face it, “conservatives” and Tea Party screamers have been demanding the deficit be cut for several years now and that would certainly do what they want.
It was that demand, made by people refusing to compromise, that led to the agreement to sequester government funds across the board if a solution to the automatic tax hikes that President Bush stuck us with. Failure to solve that little problem now threatens — surprise! — not only to cut funds across the board but to sweep away Bush’s tax cuts and raise taxes on everyone.
And I said, OK, fine, let the fiscal cliff come, cut spending, raise taxes, you will balance the budget in a very short time and people will get what they want whether they want it or not. Because, let’s be real: If you want the budget balanced, and you want the deficit done away with, and you want government shrunk, how else do you do it?
There is no way. Cutting programs alone will not, mathematically, do it, and I have long suspected that the proponents of cutting-only know perfectly well that it is also politically impossible.
A lot of so-called conservatives ripped me for that, but I stand by it and I am finding allies in the oddiest places, like conservative columnist Mark Theissen at the Washington Post (click) whose argument is actually pretty reasonable.
The so-called cliff is sort of a legislative act of god, both sides can easily disavow. It sweeps a whole lot of complicating factors away. People who signed Pope Norquist’s pledge not to raises taxes can say, honestly, that they didn’t. People who want to avoid the blame for raising taxes can say, honestly, that they didn’t. Force Majur is in charge here, we’re all victims.
And, yes, the sequesterization will mean huge cuts, but it will still leave defense spending a lot higher than it was before we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. People will finally see what reality is, and maybe they’ll be more careful in the future in their demands.
It will also allow us to talk about which taxes to cut in the future, and maybe this time congress will have the good sense to not put a 10-year sundown provision in the bill, like President Bush did with his tax cuts, so a future congress doesn’t get stuck with the sort of game playing we’ve had for the last two years.
(Did I just blame Bush? No, I merely stated history. Bush’s tax cuts were designed and written, by Bush and the Congress he controlled with majorities in both houses, to go away in 10 years. )