A leading Democratic senator has said her party should be willing to go off the fiscal cliff in order secure tax rises on the wealthy, raising the stakes in year-end budget negotiations.
“If the Republicans will not agree with that, we will reach a point at the end of this year where all the tax cuts expire and we’ll start over next year,” said Patty Murray, who was co-chair of last year’s deficit supercommittee, on ABC’s This Week.Going off the fiscal cliff would have at least three advantages.
The first is that we can stop saying "Bush tax cuts." Bush is gone,* and it's time to stop blaming him for the actions and problems of the current congress and administration. If we get no other advantage than simply taking responsibility for our own mess - or at least naming it after ourselves - it will be worth it.
Secondly, we will get some actual spending cuts. While the GOP is publicly most concerned about tax increases, I suspect that they are actually more worried about spending cuts, especially in defense. After all, we might have to invade Syria or something. While these automatic spending cuts would be temporary, Congress would at least have to agree on a new budget** and purposely add the money back in.
Finally, we get to expose the fact that the fiscal cliff was a stupid metaphor that never really threatened anything harmful. "We might get a recession." So what? The nation has survived dozens of them. "We need to keep our defense strong." Are you kidding me? We already spend 10 times what any other country spends on defense.
No, the real problem is not marginal rates or a tenth of a GDP point. The real problem is that our budget is out of control, spending $1.60 for every $1 in revenue. With 16 trillion in debt and more than a trillion more each year, over-hyped fights over Big Bird and 1% cuts just guarantee that when the real fiscal cliff looms large, when the actual financial hurricane comes ashore, or when Nemesis lands in Times Square with her ass-kicking boots on and a 50-ton bag of Alpo for the Boomers' demanded free lunch, we'll have used up all the really sweet metaphors.