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Caution: Cliff ahead page 2
The fiscal cliff looms

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PAUL LaCHINE
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Date published: 12/4/2012

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Republicans believe that the president's request for new stimulus spending is unwise, as is the $1.6 trillion in new revenue without an agreement on specific budget cuts. "We have a debt burden that is crushing us," Mr. Boehner said. Having given in, potentially at least, to new revenue (aka tax increases), the GOP is looking for Democrats to move in their direction, which so far hasn't happened. Mr. Boehner told Mr. Wallace. "We need to find common ground and we need to find it quickly." Otherwise, he said, the fiscal cliff will become a reality.

In fact, as Mr. Wallace adroitly pointed out, Mr. Geithner's offer is virtually the same White House budget proposal the Democrat-controlled Senate voted down (99-0) last spring. And it does nothing to address the biggest driver of federal spending, the entitlement programs. Mr. Boehner, on the other hand, is playing his cards too close to the chest, at least in public. Exactly what cuts is he proposing?

The reality is, avoiding the fiscal cliff will have to be a both-and situation: both tax increases and difficult budget cuts. President Obama campaigned on the idea of increasing taxes on the rich. His re-election can be read as an endorsement of that idea. That's why Mr. Boehner is willing to give on the GOP's strong aversion to raising taxes.

But Mr. Obama also said he believed in a balanced approach to our fiscal woes, and Mr. Boehner's bottom line is the national debt. Vague promises to "look at" possible budget cuts and entitlement program changes sometime in the future won't cut it with the GOP. Mr. Boehner is adamant: "We have a serious debt problem," he told Mr. Wallace, "and we are going to deal with it."

For the sake of our children, we must. And for the sake of the economy, we must also avoid the fiscal cliff. That's two more "musts" for Washington's December to-do list. But, sadly, it looks once again like dueling politicians are determined to make brinksmanship our national sport--or our national heartburn.


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