Three days after taking office, President Obama addressed the nation concerning the fast-approaching automatic sequestration and tax hike that will go into effect in January, unless he and Congress can work together to avert it.
Standing before a group of middle-class Americans gathered in the East Room of the White House, Obama held up a pen to signify how ready he was to sign a bill that will stop the $600 billion worth of tax increases and budget cuts from hitting the nation where it will hurt—the economy.
The Congressional Budget Office has stated that allowing the country to fall off this ‘fiscal cliff,’ which is a mechanism put in place by Congress in August 2011 in an effort to force a compromise on deficit spending, would push unemployment back up to more than 9%.
Obama and Democrats in Congress feel that the best way to avert the fiscal cliff is by raising income tax rates for individuals earning more than $250,000 a year (about 2% of Americans) and closing loopholes in the tax code that allow ridiculous deductions.
Exit polling done after Obama re-took the White House shows that 47% of Americans think that those making more than $250,000 ought to pay more income taxes, with an additional 13% believing that everyone should pay more. Thirty-five percent of Americans are opposed to any tax increase.
Armed with those results as well as the confidence that a majority of the country sees him as the most able guardian of our economy, Obama has claimed a mandate for pursuing his tax and budget plan.
However, Obama’s “balanced” approach to the problems of sequestration and tax rates has a major obstacle before it—Speaker of the House John Boehner. Boehner, along with most of the Republicans in Congress, is adamantly opposed to any increase in taxes whatsoever.
Republicans hold a majority in the House of Representatives, leading Boehner to declare a mandate of his own—the people must not want taxes to go up, because he and his ilk remain in office.
This seems strange—how is it that GOP-presidential nominee Mitt Romney received only 48% of the popular vote, yet Republicans in the House managed to claim 55% of the seats?
Did Americans feel that Obama was better suited to lead the nation as a whole, but that Republicans deserve the majority in Congress? Did that many people really split their vote between the Democratic and Republican parties at state and national levels? Fat chance.
The reality is that Republicans control a majority of state governments, thanks to the outcome of the 2010 election. They’ve used that control to re-draw congressional districts, giving them an edge in this year’s election. This is called ‘gerrymandering,’ and it’s been a problem in our political system since the days of the Federalists.
We’ve seen this scenario play out before—it’s why we’ve got our backs to the fiscal cliff in the first place. Obama and the Democrats want to raise taxes on the wealthy back to the rates they were at under Clinton; Boehner and Republicans refuse to allow that to happen. A majority of Republicans in Congress have even taken an oath never to support any legislature that will result in a tax hike.
While some members of the media are hopeful for compromise between Obama and House Republicans, I’m skeptical. Both the President and the Speaker have made noises about how important decisive action is for our economic future following the election, but words are just wind. The sooner Boehner and his cronies realize that most Americans would rather the top 2% of the population pay more in income taxes, the better.