Opinion

Possible good news out of the bad news of going over the fiscal cliff

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Lanny Davis
Former Special Counsel to President Clinton
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      Lanny Davis

      Lanny J. Davis counsels individuals, corporations and government contractors, and those under congressional scrutiny, on crisis management and legal issues by developing legal, media and legislative strategies that are designed to best produce a successful result for the client. He has experience in securities fraud and SEC investigations as well, and has found that utilizing such an integrated legal/media/lobbying approach can lead to quicker and less expensive settlements or even successfully litigated outcomes. Senior officials of public companies have also hired Lanny and his crisis group to defend themselves successfully against "short and distort" attacks and other market manipulations. For 25 years prior to 1996, before his tenure as special counsel to President Clinton, Lanny was a commercial, antitrust, government contracts and False Claims Act litigator (both in defense as well as plaintiff). He has argued numerous appellate cases in the U.S. courts of appeals.

      In June 2005, President Bush appointed Lanny to serve on the five-member Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created by the U.S. Congress as part of the 2005 Intelligence Reform Act. In that capacity, he received the highest level security clearances so that he could be fully briefed and "read in" to the various anti-terrorist surveillance and financial tracking programs at the highest classified level. From 1996 to 1998, Lanny served as special counsel to the president in the White House and was a spokesperson for the president and the White House on matters concerning campaign finance investigations and other legal issues. Lanny has participated in national, state and local politics for almost 30 years. He has served three terms (1980 to 1992) on the Democratic National Committee representing the state of Maryland, and during that period he served on the DNC Executive Committee and as chairman of the Eastern Region Caucus. In Montgomery County, Maryland, he served as chairman of the Washington Suburban Transit Commission.

      Lanny has authored several books and lectured throughout the United States and Europe on various political issues. Between 1990 and 1996, Lanny was a bimonthly commentator on Maryland politics for WAMU-88.5/FM, a Washington, D.C. local affiliate of National Public Radio. He has been a regular television commentator and has been a political and legal analyst for MSNBC, CNN, Fox Cable, CNBC and network TV news programs. He has published numerous op-ed/analysis pieces in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, he Washington Post and other national publications.

      Lanny graduated from Yale Law School, where he won the prestigious Thurman Arnold Moot Court prize and served on the Yale Law Journal. A graduate of Yale University, Lanny served as chairman of the Yale Daily News.

      Lanny is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Connecticut and before the Supreme Court of the United States and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

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!)