Replace the Fiscal Cliff with a political one

RANCHO SANTA FE, Ca., December 20, 2012 – As we hurtle toward the fiscal cliff that our elected officials created, we should ask ourselves why we tolerate it. Why not create a political cliff for those who would risk the economic safety of so many American families?

The Democrats and the Republicans in Washington, D.C., act as if only political capital is at stake. They seem to lack an appreciation for the real capital that is on the table; the capital of every family in America.

The term “political reality” is an oxymoron. Our elected officials live in world in which they construct a separate set of rules for themselves and then pretend to care about the rest of us. It is time to end that charade.

While our elected officials are insulated from the health care and retirement issues we face, they profess to care about our best interests. Here’s a suggestion: save the rhetoric and actually do something to address the issues that plague our Nation.

President Obama pretends that “raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires” is the answer. In the words of former President Clinton, “Do the math.” The President’s proposal would only cover about 5-10 days of spending at our Government’s present rate.

This isn’t to suggest that the President is the only one who needs a refresher course in reality. The Republican Party’s position is that any tax increase on the wealthy would negatively impact job growth. This is simply a political fallacy.

The truth is that smart business people do not hire new employees just because they have extra cash. They hire new employees when there is a demonstrated market need for such expansion. If the Republican claim was correct, our Nation should be thriving since there has been about $3 trillion in investment capital sitting on the sidelines for the past four years.

Let’s examine a few more ridiculous assertions on both sides of the aisle.

The President and his cronies like to apply the term “millionaires and billionaires” to anyone making $250 thousand or more per year. Again, to quote former President Clinton, “Do the math.”

One must wonder whether these elected officials have ever paid attention to the unique economic circumstances of different parts of our country as they traveled about at taxpayer expense.  On December 14, 2010, I wrote an article entitled Taxing Our Patience. The following excerpt from that article makes the point by comparing the economic reality of two fundamentally different cities.

“According to various cost-of-living calculators that are available on the web, if you live in Manhattan, you’d have to earn $639,671 to have the same buying power as a household with $250,000 of adjusted gross income in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Said another way, a household that earns $97,707 a year in Fort Smith has the same buying power as one that earns $250,000 in Manhattan … pre-tax. Remember: the Manhattan household is considered to be ‘rich’ and can be taxed well in excess of the rate that would apply to the ‘middle-class’ household in Fort Smith … (and if you live in Fort Smith you can) enjoy the same tangible rewards as your counterpart in Manhattan … plus, you can avoid the stigma of being called ‘rich.’”

It is the political equivalent of malpractice to either be too ignorant to recognize this disparity or too indifferent to care, and it is about time for there to be a political consequence associated with this type of leadership.

The Parties also waste time pointing their fingers at each other and continuing an interminable campaign that should have ended on November 6th.  Arguing over the fiction that “taxing the rich” would actually have a discernible impact on our Nation’s debt and economic growth, the Parties are placing their political bets and hoping that the other Party will be blamed if the fiscal cliff isn’t averted. Unfortunately, the “chips” they are using are essentially the poor and the middle class in our country.

The Republican leadership doesn’t want to risk the ire of its fiscal conservatives by bowing to the President’s demand to “increase taxes on the rich.” Correspondingly, the President has stated that he will veto any bill that does not impose such a tax increase.

Now, think about that.

The Republicans are willing to sacrifice the poor and the middle class in an effort to protect the upper 2% of income earners whom the President defines as “rich,” and the President is willing to sacrifice the poor and the middle class if he doesn’t get his political win. How can either egotistical position be defined as being in the best interests of the People?

It is also disturbing that our elected officials have chosen to address the purported fiscal cliff at the eleventh hour. It is not as if they were unaware that the problem existed. It has just been more politically expedient to avoid it until after the election.

The President has often stated that he “inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression.” Rather than debating the issue, let’s just assume that his observation is accurate. Doesn’t that mean that he must have known that we were approaching a “fiscal cliff” of some magnitude when he took office?

Even the most benighted members of the two Parties had to recognize that we would approach a fiscal cliff at some point. Worst case: the Simpson-Bowles Commission cited the problem over two years ago, yet our elected officials chose to ignore it.

Perhaps that last statement is a bit too harsh. After all, our political leaders did discuss raising the national debt limit in the summer of 2011. They solved that problem by setting the stage for the fiscal cliff that looms before us.

I wrote a series of articles in July of 2011 that unfortunately predicted exactly what was to transpire relative to the debt ceiling (i.e., Debt ceiling negotiations: Pelosi, Boehner, Obama & Reid play Liar’s Poker – on July 12th; The debt ceiling war: Cut, Cap, Balance versus Cut, Tax, Spend – on July 20th; and Washington, D.C.: The capital of compromise – on July 29th). The prediction was that some resolution would be reached no later than August 2, 2010; just in time for the President to fly to Chicago for the two, huge fund-raising events that were being staged around his birthday on August 4th.

This is not to suggest that my predictions should be heeded. After all, the Parties seem to be more inclined to hope that the Mayans were right and that the problem will resolve itself on December 21st.

In any event, here is my prediction with respect to the fiscal cliff.  Our elected officials will return home for Christmas but demonstrate their concern for the American people by returning to try to resolve the fiscal cliff. The President’s family will head to Hawaii without him; thus, allowing him to demonstrate his commitment to the People by remaining behind.  Nothing of any real consequence will happen because there isn’t enough time to actually do something meaningful. At best, our officials will all “kick the can down the road” and, of course, claim victory.

Don’t worry! The term “fiscal cliff” was invented to strike fear in your heart so that it could be exploited by the Parties among their polarized constituencies during the most recent election.

As reported in other publications, the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office have noted that the Government has approximately $2 trillion in unexpended funds on hand with nearly $700 billion of it unassigned. In addition, the Government Accountability Office has prepared reports in each of the last two years that identified more than $650 billion in redundancies, overlap, fragmentation, and ongoing waste (i.e., GAO-11-318SP and GAO-12-342 SP). Our elected officials have simply chosen to ignore these facts.

Correspondingly, if you would like to see a Balanced Budget Amendment to prevent further problems from arising, there is no need.  I offer you the following excerpt from the previously cited Washington, D.C.: The capital of compromise.

“22 USC 286 authorized the United States to accept membership in the International Monetary Fund. Then, in 1978, Public Law 95-435 was passed to amend 22 USC 286. Tucked away in Section 7 of Public Law 95-435 is the following condition: ‘Beginning with fiscal year 1981, the total budget outlays of the Federal Government shall not exceed its receipts.’”

If that sounds like the Federal Government is supposed to operate on a balanced budget if it is to remain a member of the International Monetary Fund, that’s because that’s what the law says. Our elected officials have just chosen to ignore it since 1981. So, here is a suggestion. Let’s enjoy the holidays and accept whatever feeble solution the President and Congress offer. Then, let’s commit to creating a “political cliff” and begin to push our elected lemmings toward it. Unless the Mayans were correct, 2014 isn’t too far away to get the attention of the first wave of vulnerable politicians.


T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years.

This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, A President for the People, in the Communities section of The Washington Times.