There is no doubt that there will be serious adverse consequences to ordinary Americans if, on Jan. 1, 2013, the nation goes over the “fiscal cliff” — meaning, on that day, $1.2 trillion in cuts in federal domestic and defense spending will begin over the next eight years, combined with immediate substantial tax increases and less money in paychecks for all taxpayers, especially hurting the middle class, as the Bush tax cuts are rescinded.
Any Democrat who thinks there is a tactical advantage to going over the cliff is probably someone who isn’t about to lose a job or remain out of a job and whose family is suffering.
But just for the sake of it, if this awful thing happens, is there any good that could come out of it?
I would say yes — three things, with the first two leading (I hope) to the most positive third result.
First, if this calamity happens, it will prove the hypocrisy of many congressional Republicans. The so-called conservative Republican Party of tax cuts and economic growth will have proven that it is willing to crash the economy because of its unwillingness to retain the Bush tax cuts for 98 percent of all Americans who earn less than $250,000 a year while increasing taxes slightly for the 2 percent who earn more — President Obama’s proposal that, to date, congressional Republicans have rejected.
But there is also some hypocrisy among congressional Democrats. Many are now insisting that Social Security reform, an important component of the Simpson-Bowles commission’s across-the-board approach, is totally off the table. That includes opposing gradually increasing the retirement age for Social Security from 67 to 69 between 2022 and 2070. (Few seem to realize the law already requires a phase-in raising of the age from 65 to 67 by 2022.) That means Democrats oppose an increase in the retirement age of a little more than two weeks per year over 48 years. Oh, come on!
And yet the same Democrats want to continue using credit cards to pay for worthy social programs — leaving our kids and our grandkids (and maybe great-grandkids) to pay the tab. That is just flat-out wrong. What happened to the Democratic Party (my party) of morality and justice, not only for this generation but for future generations?
The effect of these first two consequences of going over the cliff could lead to a third positive result in the long run: a true political revolution by the substantial majority of Americans caught in the middle between purists on the left and the right.
If this were a football field, then those between the 20-yard lines — neither all red, nor all blue, but somewhere in between (purple!) — could constitute — dare I use the Nixonian expression? — the new “Silent Majority.”
It could happen as soon as 2014, when candidates from both parties could emerge to hold incumbents accountable for their recklessness in allowing the “over the cliff” scenario to occur.
The two winning slogans in such party primaries could be: “Throw the bums out — all of them” and “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” (Great movie!)