Fiscal Cliff Frustration

Watching cable news during this fiscal cliff flop can be frustrating.

I actually heard a talking head say on MSNBC this morning that he, a man who held political office as a Democrat but who now works for a Wall Street bank, that there is no way he should get Medicare when he is 65. He should have to wait until he is 67, he proudly said.

That is just part of the talk I have heard everywhere on TV about how Democrats need to cave on “entitlements,” finding some way to get Republicans to make a “deal” before The End of the World comes.

But, again, let’s quickly review what is going on here. From January 2001 until January of 2009, Republicans held the White House, and for a substantial part of that time had effective control of Congress. Thanks in part to Democrats responsibly raising taxes in 1993, Republicans inherited budget surpluses in 2001.

Then, Republicans cut taxes, initiated two wars, cut taxes some more, created a new entitlement program that was a sweet deal for their pharmaceutical industry campaign contributors, and then looked the other way while the economy was looted by reckless, greedy bankers who brought on the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. While all that was going on, the federal debt soared, and, thanks mostly to those past Republican policies, keeps soaring.

As if that wasn’t enough, when the public, sensibly, put Democrats in control of Congress and the White House, Republicans suddenly found Jesus on the issue of government spending, just when we needed the government to keep spending to save the economy and to keep Americans working.

After finding Austerity Jesus, Republicans decided that the best way to save the country from “big-spending” Democrats (!) was to sabotage the economic recovery and hold the country hostage over the debt ceiling (!) until Democrats gave them what they wanted.

Then, because Democrats wouldn’t give them everything they wanted, they decided to create a situation that eventually led to this fiscal cliff fiasco, which amounts to a job-killing sword of Damocles hanging over the economic recovery.

But before we had to face the fiscal cliff, the parties had to face an election. Republicans didn’t do very well. In fact, Democrats gained seats in Congress and the hated Barack Obama was reelected, substantially, it turns out, because he ran on restoring those 1993 tax rates on the wealthy, those to whom Republicans had handed a rather large gift when they were in charge, a gift about to run out at the end of this year.

So, here we are. The fiscal cliff, which we have because Republican hostage takers needed assurance that Democrats would cut our social insurance commitments and not take away that tax gift from wealthy folks, is getting closer. And after that, yet another debt ceiling fight awaits, as Republicans have threatened to hold the country hostage again.

And some chattering schlemiel on television, a former Democratic congressman who now works for a big bank, says Democrats should be willing to raise the eligibility age for old folks, essentially to pay for the profligacy that Republicans inflicted on the country, old folks and all, during their years of governance. The right-wing drowned us in debt via tax cuts and war spending and a new entitlement program, and they want Democrats to tell old people they will have to pay for it.

It is psychotropically frustrating is what it is.

Chuck Todd, host of MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown, said this morning that “the pubic is craving a compromise.” He said that because of a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that found the following:

nbc poll

That poll supposedly indicates that people are beginning to blame “both sides” for the current impasse, which, if true, is a reflection of news coverage and not of reality.

But the poll did confirm a reality that journalists, and pundits on television, ought to pay attention to:

positive negative poll

As you can see, Democrats enjoy relatively strong public support. And look at the bottom of that list. Republicans are 15 points—15 points!—underwater. And looking deeper at those numbers, only 9% of respondents said they had a “Very Positive” view of Republicans, compared to 21% who viewed Democrats very positively.

The bottom line is that the public trusts Democrats to do the right thing during these fiscal cliff deliberations and any deal making that might come from them. And the right thing is not giving political cover to Republicans in Congress—who after recklessly running and ruining the economy, now feverishly want to cut social insurance benefits to rectify their malfeasance.



  1. This is the best narrative review, in ordinary language, of how the nation got in its present fiscal fiasco that I have read, and there is not an error in it. Nicely done, Duane. And, I agree with the conclusion, that ultimately the public will blame the Republicans more than they will Democrats, simply because the Republicans’ mantra against raising taxes on the wealthy rests on a false axiom, that it would “kill jobs”.

    “Reform” of MediCare is a false goal anyway because raising the eligibility age will have no effect on the root problem which is that in our society we will not tolerate letting people die without medical attention. See EMTALA. Therefore, people will get sick (and, because of obesity and other lifestyle problems, the sickness trend is upward) and they will get attention, one way or another. So adjusting the age just re-allocates the problem to the backs of the 47%. What the nation needs is not-for-profit preventive healthcare.


    • Jim,

      The truth is that if Republicans want to save money, they would do better by expanding Medicare coverage rather than by contracting it. Medicare, compared to the alternative (the ACA picking up the tab for the gap between 65 and 67), would be cheaper if it were extended to younger folks. This stuff is so maddening.



      • hlgaskins

         /  December 14, 2012

        “The truth is that if Republicans want to save money, they would do better by expanding Medicare coverage rather than by contracting it. Medicare, compared to the alternative (the ACA picking up the tab for the gap between 65 and 67), would be cheaper if it were extended to younger folks. ”

        There’s no question that a major component of America’s fiscal recovery has to include comprehensive and single payer health care reform. That along with ending Bush tax cuts, corporate welfare, closing tax loopholes, and nailing offshore tax evaders (Romney Et al). Al Capone went to prison for tax evasion while Romney and other wealthy Americans with offshore accounts run for president.


  2. The narrative of “how we got here” is simply too good not to spread further. Duane, I urge you to punch it up and submit for a Globe column. We really need something besides a steady diet of Marilyn Beasley’s, which lately is the case.


    • Thanks, Jim. I took your, and Henry’s, and Herb’s advice and submitted it to Carol. We shall see, but given what has happened between me and the Globe, I won’t hold my breath.



  3. henrygmorgan

     /  December 13, 2012

    Duane: I totally agree with Jim. It would appear that most of our local Republican friends are unaware that there was an election and their side lost. I am overtired of trying to correct Beasley’s rants. The very same woman-hating, minority-hating, truth-hating views expressed in yesterday’s Globe article and all other of her utterances reflect precisely the views of her party that were so overwhelmingly rejected by the voters on Nov. 6.

    As Jim notes, the other side should not be allowed to dominate the pages of the primary media voice of our community. I believe that Carol would welcome such a give-and-take.



    • Henry,

      Thanks for the encouragement.

      I used to listen to Beasley when she was on the radio. Her husband had a radio program associated with, I think, the American Family Association, or something like that. Those two drove me nuts, but I listened to them every Saturday. Much later on, after I was a committed liberal, I wrote my first letter to the Globe criticizing her. That was more than three years ago. I’ve written about her several times since then. So, I know what you mean.

      Her hubby is, you guessed it, a minister. Here is a link to his site, where you will find that he,

      speaks in churches and other venues with a dynamic hard-hitting message full of the zeal of the Lord delivered in a down home style that is all his own.

      He’s full of it, alright. And so is she.

      Oh. In case you are interested in contributing to their paranoia-laced ministry, besides the regular credit cards, use can use PayPal.



  4. Duane:

    I second what Jim and Henry have recommended, which is essentially to send a wake up call to the Right wing nuts, many of whom, some say too many, live in Joplin and environs.

    But, I would be willing to bet a substantial sum, say, a dime, that the Glob won’t publish it. I’m yet to see any overt criticism of the Republican Party on any of their editorial pages. However I’m sure, like all newspapers these days, that the Glob is on thin ice financially, perhaps even on a fiscal cliff. So it will be interesting to see if they are willing to expose their subscriber base to some damn contrarian who would dare to state the truth.

    Whatever the case, please submit it just to see what happens. And, of course, let the rest of us know too.



    • Herb,

      I revised it and sent it in last night. I don’t think it will get published either, but for different reasons. I will let you know how it goes, or, as they say, I’ll see you in the papers.

      Thanks for the encouragement.



%d bloggers like this: