As the clock ticks and we watch the various players move their pieces into place, it's becoming increasingly obvious that Republicans are in a no-win situation. They’re ether going to have to cave and agree to a tax increase without meaningful spending cuts or take the blame for going over the fiscal cliff. Here are five reasons why going over the cliff is by far the best option.
1. It's a Trap!
Though House Speaker John Boehner foolishly helped to manufacture this trap by making tax increases the primary issue in the fiscal cliff negotiations, there's still time to extricate himself and his party.
Obama and the media could not care less about the economy or the deficit or the middle class. What they want is a rerun of 1992 in 2014.
There was all kinds of media praise and back-slapping from Democrats after George H. W. Bush agreed to break his "read my lips" tax pledge in exchange for spending cuts. The result of that broken promise, though, was that he looked weak, like a dupe, and faced a bruising primary challenge for reelection in '92. And during this campaign, the same media that had baited Bush into breaking his most memorable campaign promise, turned on him. We all know how that ended.
If House Republicans abandon the cornerstone of their party and agree to Obama's tax increases, they are almost certain to lose the support of much of their base. The fallout would likely be worse than 1992.
After all, if conservatives can't count on the GOP to hold the line on taxes, what good are they?
2. No Meaningful Spending Cuts Will Happen Between Now and Christmas
The other half of the fiscal cliff negotiations -- which we haven't heard a whole lot about in the media -- is supposed to be real and meaningful spending cuts, which can only happen through serious entitlement reform. Again and again and again, though, from the likes for Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin and even some in the media, we're told this kind of reform can't possibly be done between now and the deadline at the end of this year.
This is nothing more than a ruse meant to fool the public into believing serious spending reforms passed this year would be reckless
Though all kinds of serious and thoughtful plans already exist to reform entitlements (like the Ryan Plan, which has passed the House twice), Democrats choose to pretend they don’t exist. This proves how unserious they are about meaningful spending reductions.
Should Republicans once again fall for raising taxes with only a "promise" from Obama regarding serious entitlement reform -- a promise he's made before and not kept -- Republicans would be in even more electoral trouble than if they just raised taxes.
Agreeing to tax increases would be bad enough. Raising taxes after being suckered would be unforgivable.
3. Going Over the Cliff Gives Republicans Time to Fix Their Messaging
The biggest negotiating disadvantage Republicans are at right now is that they're getting murdered on the messaging front. Both the media and Obama are running circles around a Party that seems thoroughly incapable of making the case for spending cuts and against raising taxes -- a position that was once so easy to articulate it actually won us a few elections.
What the GOP needs more than a lousy deal is time to regroup, get their message down, and come up with a post-holiday plan for a media offensive that will get a message across that penetrates.
The moral and economic arguments against raising taxes on anyone, much less job producers, are legion. Moreover, this so-called crisis is not a revenue crisis; it's a spending crisis. But Obama and the media have most Americans hoodwinked into believing otherwise -- which is our fault.
The option between making a lousy deal now and taking the heat for going over the cliff but with the result being a better deal later, isn't a great choice, but it is an easy one.
4. Real Spending Reform Can Happen Next Year
If Republicans hold firm to their principles and show Democrats they’re absolutely serious about spending cuts -- serious enough the take the hit they’re sure to take for us going over the cliff -- Republicans might be able to make this work for them in the long-term. Right now, Boehner has a gun to his head. Once that gun is fired, though, it's fired. That takes some of the pressure off and immediately changes the negotiating dynamic because we no longer have a gun to our head.
With the right messaging from Republicans (always a concern), the current card Democrats are playing about how serious entitlement reform can't be rushed, is off the table. From there, Republicans can pressure Obama and Democrats to get their act together. Best of all, there's still a ticking clock. The sooner Democrats get serious about spending cuts, the sooner all Americans stop paying the higher taxes that will result in missing the end-of-year deadline.
5. A Tax-Hike Without Meaningful Spending Cuts Is Meaningless
Every year we rack up over a trillion dollars in unsustainable debt, and it's just a fact that even if Obama got everything he wanted with respect to this income tax increase, it adds up to a drop in the bucket -- it's purely symbolic. But purely symbolic only in the arena of deficit reduction, not the very real effect tax increases could have on job creators.
Republicans caving before the deadline might win short-lived accolades from the media and Democrats, but on top of costing them the respect of their base, it would also be a cowardly move that accomplished nothing more than to take the pressure off.
Waiting till next year could mean actual and very real spending reductions.
Think about it...
And what good did TARP do us? Because we panicked and merely held off the inevitable, we're now entering year five of anemic economic growth and unnecessarily high unemployment. Had we stayed out of the way and let the free market do what it does best -- correct itself -- we wouldn't be in the mess we are now. Rather than let the bottom fall out, we spent trillions to extend the time it took for the bottom to fall out -- which has only served to explode the deficit and prolong our economic woes.
This country needs a smart economic plan, not another fast and meaningless one that will do nothing to solve our spending problem.
Democrats are always talking about "shared sacrifice." Let's beat them at their own game and sell a little short-term "shared" pain from some long-term gain in the area of fiscal sanity and responsibility.
Republicans have history, facts, and economic policy on their side. If they can work on messaging and steel their spines, they can not only win politically, they can also do what's right for their country.
But step one is going require the nerve necessary to hold firm.
If Republicans do the right but tough thing, I'm with them. If they cower and cave… I don’t even want to think about it.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC