This afternoon, in one of the more bizarre appearances of his presidency, Barack Obama gave a televised address to a room full of supporters on the “fiscal cliff.” He broke no news, but mocked Congress, and hinted at future tax hikes. Observers worried that he may have deliberately scuttled a potential agreement.
Even though he has come off his last campaign for political office, President Obama acted like a candidate on the campaign trail–one prepared to use whatever political capital he had accumulated to take shots at the opposition in Congress at the very moment leaders from both sides are trying to work together.
Less a President, Obama behaved more like an ESPN talking-head making fun of RG III’s knee injury.
Obama’s address, which you can watch below, was held basically to announce that some other people are working on solving the “fiscal cliff” crisis. They are close, Obama reported, but they aren’t quite there yet. He then proceeded to make some jokes about Congress, to warm applause from his selected audience. Smug doesn’t come close to capturing the true nature of his tone.
What Obama’s presser did reveal, however, was that never-ending tax hikes are on the table for the next four years. Obama said that, beyond any deal Congress may reach on the “fiscal cliff”, we will have to take further steps to address our debt and deficit. That is obviously true, as any possible deal won’t really deal with spending cuts. But, Obama said that, going forward, we will have to continue to have a “balanced” approach and ask the wealthy to contribute more.
Obama said he will continue to ask for “shared sacrifice” for “as long as I’m President. And, I’m going to be President for four more years.” Tellingly, this “sacrifice” always includes more taxes, rather than cuts in spending.
To anyone who wondered whether Obama wanted the “cliff” talks to fail, this afternoon’s presser provided the answer. If the GOP thinks it can cede some ground on taxes and then move on to debating spending, Obama, this afternoon, put that notion to rest. Obama will treat ALL future talks on deficit reduction as opportunities to increase taxes. Anything the GOP agrees to in the next 24 hours is simply a down-payment on what Obama wants.
I have long noted that repealing the Bush-era tax cuts doesn’t come anywhere close to plugging our deficit. Obama, today, agreed with that. He signaled that, as long as he’s President, further tax hikes will always be on the table. In doing so, he undermined all the work that’s been done in Congress this weekend.
Obama may have just scuttled any real “fiscal cliff” deal.