GOP congressional leaders and officials never tire of accusing President Obama of trying to blame them for the chaos that would result if the nation tumbles over the fiscal cliff. They are right and they deserve every bit of the blame for pushing the nation to the budget brink. Surveys and polls consistently show that the overwhelming majority of Americans say that they want a deal on the budget, and that deal must include the things that Obama has stood firm on. They are that the Bush tax cuts must expire on the wealthy, stay in place for the middle class, no meat ax slashes in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and other vital spending programs. If there’s no deal the majority do blame the failure on the GOP.
GOP House leaders floated one tepid, half-baked concession that would have permitted some tax hikes for the high rollers, and would have gone relatively easy for the time being on a wholesale hatchet job on entitlements. But it was quickly scuttled by GOP House conservative hardliners and cheered by tea party leaders as a cave-in to Obama and the Democrats.
GOP Senate leaders almost certainly will agree to a few concessions such as an extension of unemployment insurance, keeping the tax cuts for lower income wage earners intact, allow the current payroll tax cut to expire, and push off any decision on the debt ceiling and a pledge from Obama that he won’t push for more spending to stimulate economic growth. But GOP House ultra conservatives will still likely fight to the barricades on the tax hikes and deep spending cuts in non-military programs, even at the risk of making the party the butt of even more public ridicule and its taking a further hit on its political credibility.
One reason for this is that the GOP effectively now has two wings. One of which by knocking down the House leadership’s mild concession on a fiscal deal showed that it still is ready and willing to obstruct, oppose, and harangue any White House proposal on taxes, spending and any other budget matter. Conservatives are also ready to intimidate any House or Senate republican that wants to give-in on any of the Obama proposals. They have the numbers and the clout in the House to get away with it.
Another reason is the GOP’s unreconstructed decades old stance that increased spending on education, health, and jobs programs is tantamount to a wild, bloat of the power and reach of the federal government at the expense of the states and private sector. The fight to beat back tax hikes on the wealthy is just the GOP’s current cover to make its point about the supposedly dangerous expansion of the power of the federal government.
Still another reason GOP hardliners will risk taking the blame tossed at them for playing the role of obstructionists on the fiscal crisis is that they must remain the gatekeepers for the interests of the corporate rich. Until Obama made a major dent in corporate and banking industry political campaign giving, the GOP had always had a firm lock on the political bank account of the rich. It’s been a lucrative partnership. On the one hand the corporations and financial industry got lax regulatory oversight, bountiful tax subsidies and benefits, and investment protections. In return, GOP candidates and incumbents got hefty cash subsidies from the corporate rich for their campaigns.
But the stiff potential fall-out from a plunge over the fiscal cliff poses a danger to their neat arrangement. To prevent that, the GOP will do as little as it can get away with to deflect the full brunt of the public wrath over its foot drag on cutting a deal to avoid total fiscal collapse. But it will not give up its sacred cow, which is preserving the perks of the rich, nor will it sheath the one weapon that it has relentlessly stabbed Obama with. And that’s to slur him and the Democrats as wildly irresponsible tax and spend, big government devotees, inherently hostile to business. Romney made this the centerpiece of his strategy to snatch back the White House. It failed with Romney, but the GOP won’t abandon the ploy.
In the days after House Speaker John Boehner’s mild counter proposal to Obama’s tax and spending proposal went down the drain, legions of tea party leaders wildly cheered the failure. They implored GOP congressional leaders to stand firm against the White House. The concessions that the White House will ring out of the GOP won’t alter the party’s game plan to use the fiscal cliff and all other vital issues that will come down the legislative pike to reassert its traditional role as the guardian for the corporate rich and to defiantly oppose Obama administration policies. For that the GOP will get much deserved public blame.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent political commentator on MSNBC and a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network.