Why Obama must go over the fiscal cliff

Why Obama must go over the fiscal cliff

The standard line on Barack Obama’s fiscal-cliff dilemma is that tactical considerations (i.e., how to get the best deal) recommend jumping over the edge, while strategic considerations (i.e., how to have the most successful presidency) recommend striking a deal. When it comes to tactics, after all, there’s no point in compromising with the GOP in order to raise tax rates below their Clinton-era levels, at least not when simply waiting until January 1 will restore them entirely, no concessions required. On the other hand, doing so could trigger a recession that derails Obama’s agenda. As Major Garrett of the National Journal put it a few weeks ago: “President Obama … has no hope of a second-term legacy of immigration reform, tax reform, or climate-change legislation (if he even wants it) if he drives the nation off the cliff. No one will follow Obama back out of the recessionary wilderness.”

There is plenty to be said for this argument—president’s don’t normally find it easier to govern during a recession, of course. But as the fiscal cliff negotiations play out, it’s increasingly proving to be wrong. At this point, both tactical and strategic considerations point toward the necessity of taking the plunge.

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