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Monday, December 03, 2012

Shifting political winds: Criticized as weak in past talks, Obama takes harder line in fiscal cliff talks

The political winds have shifted.

During President Barack Obama's first term, the GOP planned from the start to try to stop just about everything he did - even the things they agreed with - in order to make him look hyper-partisan to gum up the machine, which they believed would be their way back into power.

The president cut taxes heavily, based his signature health reform plan on a Republican idea and tried to appoint a conservative Republican to an important cabinet position, in addition to other high-profile assignments, only to be rebuffed on almost all of those counts.

In 2010, it seemed to work with historic gains in the House of Representatives by Republicans. But what the GOP didn't factor in was the economy improving from a 10 percent unemployment rate to 7.9 percent by the time the president was up for re-election. And because of that, their plan failed to oust him. Had they opted to work with him with the clear leverage they had, particularly over the past couple of years, they could have worked a deal to amend the Affordable Care Act to include more malpractice reform. They could have gotten Medicare reform that would have included a raising of the age of eligibility. They could have gotten a fiscal health bill that would have cut the deficit by $4 trillion over the next 10 years mostly with cuts and reform and only a little revenue raised, with no increases in the tax rates, even for the wealthy.

They decided it was better to try to work themselves back into power by making the president seem as though he was the one being radical. It didn't work. And this is what it has lead to:

Criticized as weak in the past, Obama takes harder line

I suspect that both sides will come to a deal later this month, but that it will be much closer to the center left than it would have been had the GOP signed off on the grand bargain last summer. We need entitlement reform. We need tax reform. We need short-term stimulus and long-term spending cuts. If we end up with some combination of that, then we would have gotten to a fairly good spot despite the machinations of insider-Washington politics.

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