Obama gets his class-warfare trophy, but the fiscal cliff is just one battle in a long war

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Daniel Mitchell
Senior Fellow, Cato Institute
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      Daniel Mitchell

      Dan Mitchell is a Senior Fellow at the <a href="http://www.cato.org/">Cato Institute</a> in Washington, DC. He is one of the nation's experts on the flat tax and has been the leading international voice in the fight to preserve tax competition, financial privacy, and fiscal sovereignty.

      Dan's work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Times, Washington Post, National Review, Villanova Law Review, Public Choice, Journal of Regulation and Social Cost, Emory Law Journal, Forbes, USA Today, Offshore Investment, Playboy, Investor's Business Daily, and Worldwide Reinsurance Review. He has appeared on all the major networks, including CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC and C-SPAN.

      Prior to joining Cato, Dan worked for the Heritage Foundation, Senator Bob Packwood, and Citizens for a Sound Economy. Dan also spent more than three years beginning every day by co-hosting a television show. Dan earned a Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University and undergraduate and Masters degrees from the University of Georgia.

They’ll have several opportunities in the next few months to show whether they’re on the side of taxpayers, or whether they’re going to return to business-as-usual politics.

● I’d like for them to block any disaster funding for New York, New Jersey, and other states affected by Hurricane Sandy, but I’ll be satisfied if they cut out the billions of extraneous pork that’s been added to the bill.

● Will they insist on some long-overdue process reform as part of an increase in the debt limit? Congressman Brady has a proposal, known as the MAP Act, that imposes a spending cap modeled after the very successful Swiss Debt Brake. That seems like a very reasonable request if Obama wants another increase in borrowing authority.

● The “continuing resolution” expires at the end of March, meaning that the government no longer will have authority to spend money for the non-entitlement portions of the federal government. If they’re serious about fiscal responsibility, lawmakers should insist on genuine spending cuts. And if Obama balks, let him be the one to shut down useless and counterproductive bureaucracies such as the Department of Education and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

This short list contains items that can be achieved if self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives are sincere about saving America from becoming another Greece.

To be sure, nothing on the list addresses the main problem of unsustainable entitlement programs. But there’s no realistic way of getting pro-growth reforms through the Senate or signed by Obama. Heck, if you’re trying to gauge the odds of good entitlement changes in the next four years, all you need to know is that you’re better off betting that I’ll be playing centerfield for the New York Yankees next season.

Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.