Our Big, Fat Fiscal Cliff-Hanger

If we go over the edge at year's end, Republicans have themselves to blame, not Obama.

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The one thing they won't be explaining is how they caused the crisis in the first place. They won't be explaining how voting for the Bush administration's two wars, which were never on the budget books, contributed to the deficit. They won't be reminding the nation how they held the debt ceiling hostage last year, which ultimately paved the road to the cliff we're now trying to avoid.

The Republican leaders will try to avoid mentioning their anti-tax pledge to Grover Norquist and his lobbying group, Americans for Tax Reform, since their slavish allegiance to him has also contributed to our fiscal crisis. Instead, they will grant that higher taxes may be necessary -- under their conditions. Then they will call for tax reforms, getting rid of tax loopholes and eliminating fraud and waste. Anything but raising taxes on the rich.

In winning last week's presidential election, Barack Obama won more than just an extended stay at the White House. He also won the upper hand in determining which segments of the federal budget get the money and which ones get the shaft.

Maybe.

While everyone agrees that elections have consequences, there is partisan disagreement on whether the president has a mandate. Democrats say that he does, noting that the president campaigned on increasing the taxes on annual incomes of $250,000 or more, and that the voters affirmed his position with an Electoral College landslide. Republicans say there is no Obama mandate, arguing that the president only defeated Mitt Romney by a few million votes and that the race was close in the all-important swing states.

No matter what, the Republicans now look like Wile E. Coyote in a Road Runner cartoon. If they allow the nation to go over the fiscal cliff, they'll get the blame. If they cave before the calamity occurs, the president will get the praise.

The signs of the times are already posted for all to see. Last week, Californians voted to raise the state's sales and income taxes to rescue its flailing education system. No more Mr. Fall Guy, President Obama has signaled his resolve to slay the Republicans' gilded lamb by calling for a $1.6 trillion tax hike for the richest Americans. And that tired old meme about raising taxes on the "job creators" is beginning to not even ring true inside the right-wing echo chamber.

If you recall, the wealthy paid 39 percent taxes during the Clinton era. No jobs were killed. The economy was alive and booming.

"It won't kill the country," said conservative thought leader Bill Kristol Sunday on Fox News, "if Republicans raise taxes a little bit on millionaires."

Cybercolumnist Monroe Anderson is a veteran Chicago journalist who has written signed op-ed-page columns for both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times and executive-produced and hosted his own local CBS TV show. He was also the editor of Savoy Magazine. Follow him on Twitter.

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