WaPo's Marcus and Dionne Downplay Fiscal Cliff, It's More of a 'Slope'

November 20th, 2012 11:33 AM

During Friday’s broadcasts of the PBS's NewsHour and NPR’s All Things Considered, liberals continued with their narrative about the fiscal cliff, and how it’s not all that bad.  Previously, Mark Shields and E.J. Dionne agreed with New York Times-style Republican David Brooks that they would go off the cliff.   The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne equated it with the “will of the people.”

But now, the Post’s Ruth Marcus and E.J. Dionne insist that the cliff isn’t a cliff.  It’s actually a well-defined “slope." But in the words of Joe Biden, “this is a big f***ing deal.”

Besides the tax increases that will be implemented during our recession, the deep defense cuts via sequestration will be extremely damaging to the military, and that's according to President Obama's own Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. 

Yet liberal columnists like Ruth Marcus insist the fiscal cliff is more akin to riding a “roller coaster.”   Something tells me that financial markets don't like roller-coaster thrill rides, particularly in a soft economy.

On the other hand, Brooks maintained, as he did before, that no deal will be made, and Democrats have no incentive not to go off since they’ll get what they want anyway.

RUTH MARCUS: Well, I share some of David's concerns. And I do think that we just need to prepare ourselves. On the way to the fiscal cliff, we're going to be on a fiscal roller coaster.


RUTH MARCUS: And it's going to look absolutely terrible and dire before it gets solved, if it gets solved.

But there is -- it's going to -- there are going to be numerous moments where it looks like as if they can't bridge the gap. It is clear that the president, despite his words of conciliation and I'm open to compromise, if you have an idea, bring it forward, I will take a look at it, the administration is fundamentally convinced that it can't come up with the revenue that it believes it needs without raising tax rates.

I -- the reason I'm somewhat optimistic is I am hearing so -- I have been on the phone all day with senators of both parties and House members of both parties.

And I'm hearing so much more flexibility from the Republican side than I am used to hearing, not -- on two ways, first, that we can have revenue, and not revenue from the magic elixir of growth, but real, scoreable revenue, you know, from -- hopefully, from their point of view, from broadening the base, which is, by the way, a great idea, but also that raising tax rates is not the Republican red line that I was worried that it might be.

And so I do see -- I do see a path to a solution.

Fine. But talk is cheap in politics, and Marcus omitted the fact that a recent Gallup poll found that only 47% percent of Americans support tax increases on the wealthy.  There is hardly a mandate for the president to undertake this endeavor.

Dionne also exuded some optimism about a deficit deal.  While not offering the same support for Republican policies, like broadening the base, which Marcus liked. Dionne was more adamant that increasing taxes alone was a better option than reforming the tax code.  This was made to trivialize the steepness of the cliff, which he feels isn’t all that bad:

E.J. DIONNE: See, I'm pretty disappointed by David's gloominess. I thought we would have a very constructive conversation here today. I think the president needs to be a warrior in order to be a deal maker. And that is what the lesson is of the last several years. He tried really, really hard to do it the other way. He was incredibly conciliatory. He gave a lot in that GOP offer, John Boehner, back in 2011, and it didn't work.

And I think now he has several cards, the two biggest ones is, A, he was reelected after a campaign in which he pledged to raise taxes on the wealthy and, B, the way the fiscal cliff works, and I don't really think it's a cliff, I think it's a slope, but the way that works...


DIONNE: Well, I don't think it has to be steep. I think there are ways they can keep it from affecting us very much for the first month or so, you know, by not changing the withholding tables, by pushing the spending cuts down later in the year. But I think that, you know, the Republicans know all these tax increases come back.

I am struck that we already know taxes on the wealthy are going up and we are arguing now about how it's going to happen. Boehner insists on tax reform. The Republicans used to insist on tax reform and rate cuts, but they're not saying that anymore. Obama would like to - and I agree with him on this, I think we'd be better off to restore the Clinton rates and then talk about tax reform.

You might end up with a mix of the two, so I'm less pessimistic than David is over getting a deal.

As we approach the cliff, expect to see more of liberal journalists trivializing its steepness, praising the Clinton era rates as though they would magically bring America back to a booming economy, and sounding non-committal at best about any spending cuts outside of the military.