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OK, Republicans apparently changed their mind (yes, the singular is correct, because I think they all share the same mind) and decided that they'd make a counter-proposal, after all. That's progress,... I guess.
But note how "disappointed" they were when Barack Obama released the proposal he'd campaigned on, the proposal he'd just won an overwhelming election victory promoting.
Gee, that's hardly fair! After winning a resounding victory on that very economic plan, why would he do what he promised he'd do? Why wouldn't he just roll over and play dead for the Republicans now? Oh, it's just so disappointing! :)
But OK, let's look at that Republican plan. There are two basic parts to that 'fiscal cliff' - spending cuts and tax hikes - which are both scheduled to go into effect in less than a month.
As Jon Stewart pointed out, the spending cuts are $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts (as a result of that "super committee" in Congress failing to come to an agreement), half from domestic spending and half from defense spending. That's half of this fiscal cliff, and it will happen if Congress does nothing to stop it.
So what do Republicans propose, in order to avert this hit to our already-shaky economy? They suggest we take all of the cuts from domestic spending, and nothing from defense. That's it. That's their brilliant plan.
First of all, that's still the same cliff. That does absolutely nothing to soften the blow. Second, the whole point to setting up this agreement in which half of the cuts would come from defense was so the Republican Party would also have something to lose.
Forget their campaign rhetoric about Medicare. The minute the election was over, they changed their tune on that - as, indeed, this proposal also demonstrates. So the Republican counter-proposal - after an election they profoundly lost - is to give up nothing themselves, while making the Democrats eat dirt.
It's absolutely incredible, isn't it? If the GOP hadn't been demonstrating a pattern of insanity in recent years, this would actually surprise me. As it is,... well, we could probably have predicted it, don't you think? This is just as insane as everything else they've been doing and saying recently.
Oh, but that's only half of the fiscal cliff. The other half is tax increases, as the Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire (and also some of Obama's tax cuts, such as the payroll tax deduction for working people).
Now, John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, says that "raising tax rates is off the table." Um,... say what? Tax rates are going up. The Bush tax cuts were always meant to be temporary (because of fears they'd balloon the deficit, which they did), and they're scheduled to expire in less than a month.
Like the spending cuts, if Congress does nothing, tax rates for everyone will increase. Remember that fiscal cliff stuff? Forget "off the table." They don't have to be on the table. It's happening. The only issue now is whether or not Congress will agree to lower rates for the middle class.
Democrats propose to extend the tax cuts for households making less than $250,000 a year. If Republicans will agree to that, then middle class rates won't go up. If Republicans won't agree to that, then they will. But that's the only question - unless Democrats completely cave (again) - because there doesn't have to be an agreement "on the table" to increase taxes on the wealthy. It's already the law.
So what kind of counter-proposal is this? It makes absolutely no sense at all. The only leverage Republicans have is to hold America's economy hostage. Well, they've done that before. But the difference this time is that adopting their plan would also kill the hostage. We'd still go over that 'fiscal cliff,' but the wealthy would be somewhat protected from it.
That's it. That's the Republican proposal. So why in the world would even the most cowardly Democrat go for it? I know they tend to be timid and politically inept, but are they this inept?
I do like Jon Stewart's closing line, though. He suggests we just go over that cliff, because, "at least for a few seconds, it will feel like we're flying."
He's joking, but I know exactly what he means. We Americans used to fly. We used to do great things. We put a man on the Moon - several times, in fact. We made our share of mistakes, but we had glorious dreams.
But these days, we've become penny-pinching little misers, refusing to invest in our own country, even in our own children. We've become timid little cowards, huddling in our basements, refusing to rise to the challenge of competing in the 21st Century.
We're a nation of immigrants that's become positively hysterical about immigration. And we've changed from rational human beings into the fantasy-prone and faith-based, refusing to accept science, refusing to accept reality, just sticking our heads in the sand to keep from hearing anything we don't want to hear.
Wouldn't it be nice to fly again? Of course, the fiscal cliff won't do that, not even briefly. The Republicans collapsed our economy in the first place - the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, all because of their disastrous policies during the Bush administration - and they're apparently willing to see it happen again.
Well, they don't want America to fly. To conservatives, flying is scary. After all, if man were meant to fly, God would have given us wings, right?