'Fiscal cliff' proposal: Is Obama trying to peeve GOP?
President Obama's fiscal cliff plan calls for, among other things, $1.6 trillion in tax increases over 10 years. But what really appears to annoy Republicans is the lack of specificity on spending cuts.
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Democrats say the other party is just acting the diva. Obama has talked publicly about pretty much all this stuff, they say, so nobody should pretend to be surprised.Skip to next paragraph
Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.
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But even some liberals say the list is loaded up with most of their favorite proposals. In this sense, it’s a compendium of many things the administration has been pushing. This could mean the White House is not trying to woo the GOP with upfront concessions. Instead, Obama appears to believe he’s entering these talks in a position of strength.
“This opening bid will cheer liberals – it strongly suggests the White House is willing to push Republicans very hard, in the belief that it has all the leverage,” writes left-leaning Greg Sargent in his Plum Line blog at the Washington Post.
Some on the right say all this means Obama has also decided he’s not that worried about actually reaching a deal. Instead, he’s decided that allowing automatic spending cuts and tax increases to kick in on Jan. 1 will only increase his leverage. The logic of this view runs this way: Polls show a majority of voters will blame the GOP if the United States dives over the cliff. The administration can then say any resultant weakness in the economy is Republicans’ fault, and Democrats would do better in the 2014 midterms than they would have otherwise.
Obama is “either indifferent about going over the cliff or now actively wants it to happen, and since he knows he can count on the press to scapegoat Republicans when it does, he’s decided to shoot for the stars with his ‘offer’ and see how desperate Boehner is,” writes conservative blogger Allahpundit on the Hot Air website.
However, our favorite guess here stems from game theory, which focuses on strategic decisionmaking. Perhaps the administration is trying to enter fiscal cliff talks in a position to both reach a deal and get most of what it wants.
One way to do this might be to lard up opening positions with lots of stuff you’d be willing to discard. This way, the other side gets “victories” when you agree to strike them, allowing it to save face in the final deal.
Opening positions are just that – openings. In that sense, the administration’s proposal could be both unrealistic and the opening to a solution.