The Fiscal Cliff: Time to Go Ahead and Jump
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In a recent broadcast, Thom Hartmann makes a compelling argument why Democrats should allow Congress to jump of the “fiscal cliff” and allow the automatic tax and spending cuts to take place on December 31st (when the Bush tax cuts expire and automatic cuts to defense and domestic spending occur as stipulated in the Budget Control Act of 2011).
He reminds us that there will be more Democrats in the House and more progressive Democrats (like Elizabeth Mitchell) in both the House and Senate after newly elected representatives and senators are sworn in next January. He points out that congressional Democrats got a half a million more votes, but that Republicans remain in control owing to state gerrymandering of district boundaries.
Hartmann cheers the reduction of the defense budget, if for no other reason than the Pentagon is unable to account for trillions of dollars they supposedly spent on the wars in the Middle East. By allowing both the tax and spending cuts to occur automatically, the Democrats can force the Republicans to show their true colors by forcing them to argue the merits of specific cuts.
For example the Democrats could introduce Obama’s proposal to end the tax cuts for the wealthy and super wealthy but to continue them for poor and middle income Americans. Likewise they could also introduce legislation to preserve essential safety net programs, such as unemployment benefits, food stamps, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. Both would force the Republicans to reveal their real agenda, which is to make life cushy for their billionaire supporters.
Finally the Democrats could use the defense cuts to launch a national debate over the US role in empire. During the election, Obama himself spoke (whether that means anything) about prioritizing nation building and Americans’ needs. As Hartmann points out, such a debate would allow both progressive Democrats and Republicans a chance to limit Obama’s ability to serve as judge, jury and executioner with his illegal drone strikes.