You'll remember that President Barack Obama was the only candidate with a detailed plan to deal with the impending fiscal unpleasantness. And, as the president explained this week during his first press conference since winning re-election, "more voters agreed" with him, so naturally, it's time to give the people what they want.
So what do we win? Well, turns out there's only one detail worth remembering when dealing with the slew of tax hikes that kick in next year: We must reverse Bush-era tax rates on the rich. According to rosy projections of the Congressional Budget Office, this would amount to around $824 billion in revenue over the next decade, or less than one year of deficit spending by the administration. Democrats also support a millionaire "Buffett" tax, which could raise—maybe—$47 billion over the next decade, or less than $5 billion a year, or around half a workday of the federal government's budget.
In other words, we get the genuinely unserious government we deserve.
Republicans have already conceded huge swaths of their argument to the president. Both House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are now ready to meet with Obama to tackle a nonexistent "revenue" problem rather than an unsustainable spending problem. So elections do have consequences—most notably, surrender.
Meanwhile, as the GOP plots an honorable out, the president is crushing them on the broader political and ideological front. It is the president who lays out the populist parameters of this debate (rich vs. the rest) and the Republicans who are unable to muster a cogent retort or a single enticing reform-minded agenda. Instead, the GOP has cooked up a political strategy that repetitively calls out the president for his lack of "leadership" in hopes of pressuring the White House. Good luck with that!
Obama went on to say that he remains adamant that taxes rates on the rich must rise—though he is flexible on the details of how he gets to raise tax rates to where he wants them, explained White House Press Secretary Jay Carney this week. In Washington, this is called "compromise." Obama explained in his presser that he's also "very eager" to reform the tax code and claims that entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security need a "serious look," but gave absolutely no hint on how he would move forward.
The president says he's open to all "new ideas" as long as those ideas "raise revenue, maintain progressivity, make sure the middle class isn't getting hit, and encourage growth." Since the president believes that government spending encourages expansion and that the wealthy should pay for that new spending, where does that leave us on debt? Gallup claims that 45 percent of Americans favor reducing the federal deficit with an equal balance of tax increases and spending cuts—which is up from 32 percent last year. One assumes that balance means a dollar in tax hikes for a dollar in spending cuts. Does that sound like it's about to happen?
Fox News' Bill Kristol recently wondered why the GOP would "fall on its sword to defend a bunch of millionaires, half of whom voted Democratic and half of whom live in Hollywood and are hostile." They shouldn't. They should fall on their swords—or who knows, even come up with a compelling argument—to institute a modicum of responsible budgeting.
As it stands today, after all, Obama will never have to fall on his sword, because, let's face it, he doesn't even have to bring a weapon to this fight.