Former Missouri Senator Jim Talent just published a succinct and dead-on-target primer concerning the fiscal cliff. The extract below summarizes his point of view: concentrate on the damage that would be caused by the tax hikes and the sequester or spending cuts (largely to defense,) not on Obama’s bad-faith posturing.
What should the House Republicans do?
Stop wasting valuable time by counting on negotiations with people who won’t advance a serious plan. Actually begin legislating their agenda. Pass a bill out of the House that postpones all the tax increases as well as the defense cuts for one year. Use the debate on that bill to make a case to the public. Make the defense cuts and tax hikes, and the resulting job loss, a major issue. If the Senate Democrats don’t take up the bill, their failure to act will become an issue. If they do take up the bill, Republicans in the Senate can make the economy and the defense cuts a major point of debate.
If the Democrats take action to postpone at least the defense sequester, that will be an important point gained. If they don’t, then they and the president will clearly be responsible for the damage to national security and the job losses in the defense industry.
In addition, Republicans should begin preparing for next year. Republicans should announce that under no circumstances will they agree to a debt-limit increase beyond the next session of Congress (which ends in the fall of 2013) without real budget reform. Next year, the advantage will shift to Republicans. They already have a good budget plan (the Ryan plan). They can work on tax reform that will create jobs by reducing rates — wherever rates are at that point — and reforming deductions.
In the first three months of next year, the president will have to make an inauguration speech and a State of the Union address and propose a budget. That will be the time when maximum pressure can be applied on the administration to propose real entitlement reform, which will expose the divisions within the Democratic party and be the first real step toward actually reducing the deficit.
Whether this plan will work depends on how much it moves public opinion. But it’s the best chance to avoid a loss on taxes, and it offers real hope of preventing irreparable damage to national security and getting a budget plan next year that will prevent national insolvency. The stakes are too big for Republicans not to try.