Obama has never once publicly suggested a structural cut in entitlements. On the contrary, he created an entirely new entitlement — Obamacare — that, according to the CBO, will increase spending by $1.7 trillion.
What's he thinking? Doesn't Obama see looming ahead the real economic cliff — a European-like collapse under the burden of unsustainable debt? Perhaps, but he wants to complete his avowedly transformational social-democratic agenda first, and let his successors — likely Republican — act as tax collectors on the middle class (where the real money is) and takers of subsidies from the mouths of babes.
Or possibly Obama will get fiscal religion and undertake tax and entitlement reform in his second term — but only after having destroyed the Republican opposition so that he can carry out the reformation on his own ideological terms.
What should Republicans do? Stop giving stuff away. If Obama remains intransigent, let him be the one to take us over the cliff. And then let the new House, which is sworn in weeks before the president, immediately introduce and pass a full across-the-board restoration of the Bush tax cuts.
Obama will counter with the usual all-but-the-rich tax cut — as the markets gyrate and the economy begins to wobble under his feet.
Result? We're back to square one, but with a more level playing field. The risk to Obama will be rising and the debt ceiling will be looming. Most important of all, however, Republicans will still be in possession of their unity, their self-respect — and their trousers.
THE WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP