Kind of a stretch by Jonathan Chait writing for New York Magazine, but on the other hand has anyone else done a better job of explaining the so-called fiscal cliff?
The tax deal completes the first piece of a multistage showdown between President Obama and congressional Republicans over the federal budget and the economic recovery. The Obama administration made concessions, but the concessions were small, and it is gloating that it won a larger strategic victory by breaking Republican anti-tax absolutism. Republicans, including anti-tax absolutists themselves, mostly believe they got through the first and most unfavorable stage as intact as could be. (Grover Norquist: “We’re in this impossible, upside-down position, where if you do nothing, taxes go up. That’s what we got saved from. That goes away now.”)
In gaming out the next, and much more dangerous, stages, the crucial question is, which side is right? I believe Republicans are. The big reveal from the negotiations is that, as the clock ticked down, the administration feared the consequences of a stalemate and feared the power of nihilistic House Republicans. This reporting from Politico confirms the same things I heard from the administration:
Republicans were no more likely to compromise after the deadline than before it, the White House concluded. And there was a very real fear that a resolution wouldn’t come for weeks, perhaps not before the country hit the debt limit in late February — a nightmare scenario that the president believed would destroy not only his leverage but also the still-fragile economy.
The chaos on New Year’s Day in the House validated the president’s strategy to find a solution now, White House aides said.
The basic text for understanding this situation, as with so many situations, is The Big Lebowski. A woman has allegedly been taken hostage by nihilists (nihilists conveniently being a common point of comparison with the House Republican caucus.) Jeffrey Lebowski, the Jeff Bridges character, fears they will kill her. Walter, the John Goodman character, has already figured out that there is no hostage. Lebowski here is Obama, and Walter is Harry Reid:
[continues at New York Magazine]