Fiscal Cliff 2013: Here is the Best Strategy for Republicans

There are two reasons why the Republican Party has absolutely no leverage in the upcoming “fiscal cliff” negotiations.

First, President Obama ran on a deficit reduction approach that emphasized the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts on Americans making over $250,000. His re-election confirms that, at the very least, Americans were not willing to punish the president politically for taking this view.

Second, the Republicans have a credibility gap. Their record under the last administration, which saw a near doubling of the national debt in absolute terms, has haunted their recent conversion to fiscal sanity.

A case in point was last year’s debt ceiling crises. For the first time in recent history, House Republicans chose to fight out-of-control government spending by holding up the raising of the national debt limit, which would have crippled the country’s borrowing authority until it could get a dollar-for-dollar match in spending cuts. This Republican “last stand” backfired. The nation’s credit rating was downgraded for the first time in history while both S&P and the American public blamed Republicans.

Should the GOP take a “last stand” on taxes, it will bear all the political risk with little if any reward. Should they remain firm on extending the Bush-tax rates for the wealthy at the expense of raising tax rates for all (the Bush tax cuts all expire on December 31) they risk alienating the 98% of Americans whose taxes would actually rise; a move the public will not forget. Simply put, the GOP is no position to play political hardball on taxes.  

Rather than staking their ground on the Bush tax rates, a move that even reputable conservatives concede will not help either the economy or the budget deficit, the House GOP should actively push two broad concepts: 1) a tax reform solution that raises more revenue than the president’s current plan, and 2) a tax reform solution that remains both pro-growth and progressive (the rich will pay more).  

By framing their stances in ways that actually address the country’s short-term fiscal challenges in an intelligent and bi-partisan way, Republicans would begin to gain back the trust that precedes electoral victories: the trust of governing.  

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Jonathan Tkachuk

Jonathan received his M.A. in Diplomacy (Concentration in Counter Terrorism) from Norwich University and his B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University. An independent professional, Jonathan resides in Northern Virginia.

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