WASHINGTON — Americans are justified in feeling numbed by the car alarm of Washington politics.
Every now and then we get a reprieve from the noise. Something breaks through: a sex scandal, a gaffe, a surprise resignation. Already the words “Petraeus affair” have been supplanted by “DeMint's departure.”
Noisiest is the “fiscal cliff,” which will be looming at least until Christmas or even New Year's. What do most Americans know about it? Not much except that Washington, as usual, isn't doing what's necessary to prevent it.
The cliff negotiations between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner have taken on the aspect of a game of chicken. Boehner needs spending cuts; Obama needs revenue. America needs both.
Who will blink first before we plummet off the edge into automatic tax increases for all, government spending cuts and a probable recession?
After so many years of partisan intransigence, it's easy enough to assume that all parties are equally guilty, but this time Obama is driving the herd. Elections have consequences, as the president keeps reminding us. By this, he apparently means that he will have things his way, the rest of the country be damned.
Boehner's good-faith attempts at a deal, offering new revenue through reforms as well as leaning toward some limited tax-rate increases, have been met with mockery. Obama's laughable idea of a balanced deal includes taking control of the debt ceiling and doubling revenue demands, while offering little in the way of spending cuts.
Contrary to his campaign rhetoric, the president is not a conciliator but an instigator who habitually doubles down. He may not be a socialist, an accusation he swats away with a bored chuckle, but he is a big-government guy. He believes that government can do dramatic things that benefit a greater swath of society if he can just wrest away some of the lucre from the wealthiest citizens.
Obama was hardly coquettish back in 2008 in describing his vision to that nice plumber fellow, Joe Whatshisname, when he said he thought some of America's wealth needed to be redistributed.