While conservatives roundly criticize Senate Republicans for cutting a deal with Vice President Joe Biden to avert the fiscal cliff, there are several aspects of the deal that make it a win for Republicans – if they cling to their promises this time.
First off, President Obama has now admitted that he got the tax increases he wanted. While his crowd proclaims that Republicans raised taxes for the first time in history, they didn’t – taxes were slated to rise anyway, and they voted to lower taxes that were in place after the fiscal cliff hit on Monday night. More importantly, Obama has said that he’s got all the tax increases he wants: “this means millionaires and billionaires will pay their fair share to reduce the deficit through a combination of permanent tax rate increases and reduced tax benefits.”
That means it’s time to cut. And with the debt ceiling debate coming up, President Obama can’t stump for yet more tax increases, after he’s gotten the tax increases he supposedly wanted. As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, “Now it’s time to get serious about Washington’s out of control spending. That’s a debate the American people want. It’s a debate Republicans are ready to have.” As one Senate aide told me, “Now it’s all cuts all the time. Taxes are off the table.”
There’s another aspect of the deal that’s good for conservatives, too: the sequester-size cuts will take place. And they will be more carefully tailored than the blunderbuss approach that would disproportionately slash defense.
Yes, on the tax rates, liberals won. But thanks to Republicans, their win wasn’t as big as it could have been – just 0.7 percent of all households will be affected by the increased tax rates. That’s thousands of households too many. But remember that if Obama had gotten his way, that number would have been 2 percent, and that if we’d hit the fiscal cliff, every American taxpaying household would have seen a tax increase.
So is this fiscal cliff deal a loser for Republicans? Only if they play their cards wrong on the debt ceiling debate. But Obama has no cards on that debate. Is he going to hold America’s credit rating hostage to preserve this level of government spending? The American people want to see spending cut. And now that they’ve had their class warfare moment, and even Obama has acknowledged that that moment is over, it’s time to get down to business.