Our Big, Fat Fiscal Cliff-Hanger

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


(The Root) — If the nation plunges over the fiscal cliff at year’s end, President Barack Obama won’t take the fall. The blame will lie at the feet of congressional Republicans.

After four years of sheer obstructionism — behavior that was called out during the presidential campaign season — most Americans are pointedly aware of who is willing to further wreck the nation’s economy and who would like to rescue it.

Fifty-three percent of the nation believes that if a fiscal agreement isn’t reached by New Year’s Eve, Republicans in Congress are the ones to blame, reports a new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll. It also reports that only 38 percent believe that the president and the Republican Congress will reach a deal.

If those pessimists are right, then in an effort to assure a long-term deficit reduction, a series of mandatory and draconian spending cuts will jump off in less than seven weeks, coupled with the expiration of a slew of tax cuts.

Should the president’s disloyal opposition insist on continuing their budget blocking to protect the richest Americans from having to bear the burden of a puny 4 percent tax increase on any earnings over a quarter of a million annually, all the rest of us will suffer.

Just the threat of the so-called fiscal cliff is already hurting the stock market, which has plunged more than 400 points in the past week. Should it happen, the fall will also hurt the middle class, burdening it with two-thirds of the tax increases, forcing families to pay about $2,000 more a year in taxes. It will hurt folks who get unemployment assistance. It will hurt doctors who accept Medicare. It will hurt college students. It will hurt defense contractors.

It will devastate the already hurting black middle class and black working poor.

Our slowly declining unemployment rate would squeal quickly into reversal. As many as 3.4 million jobs would be lost, forcing us back into a recession, hiking the unemployment rate to 9.1 percent from the current 7.9 percent.

Overall, the cost of next year’s fiscal cliff-hanger could total nearly $700 billion if nothing is done, estimates the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. So, to no one’s surprise, the urgency is fierce.

The president is meeting, summiting and promising to take his show on the road. He met with labor and liberal leaders Tuesday. He met with CEOs Wednesday. Friday President Obama will hold a summit with key congressional Republicans and Democrats. If gridlock revisits, the president says he’ll abandon Washington and take his case to the people. In an effort to deflect blame, Paul Ryan and other Republicans on the Hill are taking to television and radio airwaves, attempting to explain how they would put the nation’s fiscal house back in order.