Pointless drama

As I was explaining the fiscal cliff to David today, I told him that Congress had basically put a gun to its on head in the form of a serious artificial deadline to force itself to create a grand bargain.  I also told him that it could basically just decide to lower the gun– it’s its own damn arm.  Yglesias made the really good point today that it is really pointless now.  The whole point was to force a grand bargain, but there’s no grand bargain negotiations happening now.  It’s all small ball:

Once upon a time, the idea—for better or for worse—was that the threat of the fiscal cliff might inspire congress to reach a “grand bargain” that reduced the budget deficit by several trillion dollars relative to current policy even while providing the economy with much-needed short-term stimulus. But that bargain already fell apart. It’s dead. Instead, the back-and-forth over the weekend is about a “small” deal—a deal that would have some-but-not-all of the Bush tax cuts expire and maybe delay implementation of the budget sequester pending a further agreement or maybe not.

That’s all great stuff to talk about, but when you think about it Congress could easily just tell everyone to go home, watch the Redskins game, enjoy their New Year’s Even plans, and revisit this on Wednesday. If there’s not going to be a grand bargain (and there’s not) then it really doesn’t matter whether we go “over the cliff” or not. Congress can pass a tax cut bill on Wedesday using the new baseline just as easily as they can pass a tax hike bill on Monday using the old baseline. Obama can delay implementation of the sequester administratively pending ongoing negotiations.

Continuing to burn the midnight oil at this late hour is just ruining people’s weekends for no good reason.

I’m still of the opinion that we’re just completely wasting time with all of this because Republicans will never vote to raise taxes.  But as of Tuesday, they don’t have to.  They just have to vote for a tax cut for not quite everybody.  Now, in many ways voting on this on Monday instead of Tuesday is a distinction without a difference, but when you are dealing with an anti tax cut theology, it makes all the difference.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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