Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Preposterous Position of President Obama on the Fiscal Cliff

Who's Hurting Who?
For a 'constitutional scholar', President Obama sure doesn't act like he knows who holds the cards in any negotiations on budget matters in Washington, DC.

Who does hold the cards?

The House of Representatives.  Period.  'All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House' from Article 1 of the Constitution. There are multiple Committees on Authorization and Appropriations in the House and the Senate.  None in the White House.

Get the picture?  'The President proposes, Congress disposes' goes the old adage, which actually has its roots in Thomas a Kempis' great work, The Imitation of Christ, believe it or not.

'The President can propose all he wants until he is blue in the face but he can not get one thing done in our constitutional democratic republic until and unless 50%+1 of both the House and the Senate members at the time pass something he will then sign' is basically what the Founders demanded in the ratified Constitution.

No monarchs. No demagogues. No dictators. Their view of the President and what prevailed for almost 2/3's of American history was that Congress would pass laws (legislate) and the President would 'execute' their wishes from the 'executive branch' of our government.

It changed dramatically in 1932 with the election of FDR in the maw of the Great Depression. He consolidated power in the White House that, in truth, has only grown since then.

But President Obama is taking 'executive power' over the fiscal cliff with everything else it seems.

He says he was re-elected with a mandate (of 50.9%) to 'raise taxes on rich people!'

So what?  Congress was returned with a majority of Republicans who were also elected with a 'mandate' not to raise taxes on anyone. Congress is where the power to make decisions on raising taxes and spending lies in the Constitution, not 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we seem to recall.

Who holds the constitutional cards in that head-butting battle for supremacy, huh?

We never saw a President during our time in Washington who didn't yield eventually to the will of the people as expressed in the majority in Congress.  Didn't see Reagan get his way on spending cuts or taxes for that matter in 1982; Social Security Reform (sic) of 1983 or much anything else during his second term.

Why?

Because the Democrats held huge majorities in the US House up until 1994 when Bill Clinton basically paved the way for the GOP to take over the House for the first time in close to 50 years.  Tip O'Neill and then Jim Wright after him got Reagan and George Bush 41 to ultimately yield to their demands on most of the key points of contention.

Which is why President Obama's confrontational approach is so baffling right now when we need to get this fiscal cliff fixed and put to bed.  Forever hopefully.

Speaker John Boehner has already conceded as much as he will ever concede on raising taxes on the super-wealthy. Perhaps close to 60% of all the people making over $1 million per year in income voted for President Obama for some reason according to some polling data we have seen so maybe they deserve what they voted for in this case.

But that is it and as far as he is likely to go without causing a full-scale revolt among Republicans in the lame-duck session and the new ones coming in next month.

What core principle is President Obama and the Senate Democrats, who seem to be about as involved on guiding budget policy for the last 3 years as a flea can tell an elephant where to go, willing to 'give up' on as a concession to equate this concession by Speaker Boehner?

It seems to us that some sort of commensurate deal would have to include the raising of the retirement age in Medicare.

Why again, you might ask?

Because it is ALREADY GOING UP IN SOCIAL SECURITY!  Today. You have to be age 66 to get a Social Security check now, not 65 as etched into stone by FDR when he came down from Mount Sinai to somewhere in 1935 when SS was passed.

How much pain and angst and sturm und drang has that caused really, in all honesty?

Not much.  The ones who need to retire early still do so on the 'early option' for SS.

Something very similar could be done for Medicare.  Today.  In this bill.  Make it immediate to correlate with SS and give some sort of early option for true hardship cases.

Savings over the next 10 years from that one provision alone would approximate $500 billion. 1/2 of $1 trillion.  It would start to change the structural deficits we have for the future. World markets would breathe a sigh of relief that Washington is finally doing something serious to address the only thing that really matters when it comes to attacking our deficits and debt: Spending.

We think it is time for President Obama to re-read the US Constitution and realize that it is he who needs to change his outlook on this debate because if the deal on the fiscal cliff is not done soon, it will be mostly his fault now that the GOP has offered a break on their tax stance.


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