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Quit scaring us with the politics of threat!
Froma Harrop's op-ed column on the Fiscal Cliff: The politics of threat.

Date published: 12/30/2012

PROVIDENCE, R.I.

--The people are sad. If holiday shopping is any measure of public mood, the joy vanished this year. The grade-school massacre depressed everyone, and now our rapid approach to the "fiscal cliff" has many scared and afraid to spend money.

The fiscal cliff is a phony crisis dropped on us by the politics of threat. Rather than further their goals through the normal process, so-called conservatives are using threats against the economy to get what they want. They tried it during the debt-ceiling fiasco of 2011. They're trying it now.

The cliff is itself the result of that scandalous threat by the Republican right to let the United States go into default as a "negotiating tool" to force cuts in programs. To avoid economic catastrophe, the sides agreed to auto-matic tax increases and spending cuts, starting on Jan. 1, if budget deficits haven't been dealt with by then. They haven't. Removing $500 billion from a still-weak economy could send us back into recession.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner seemed ready to deal before Christmas, but the right-wingers in his caucus wouldn't let him. His Plan B proposal would have let tax rates rise only for those making over $1 million, and "conservatives" in his party still rejected it. Heaven forbid that folks with seven-figure incomes be asked to pay more in taxes.

Obama doesn't seem to have much to negotiate over and, in any case, is politically stronger this time. For one thing, if the Bush-era tax cuts expire (as was written into the law by Bush-era Republicans), Democrats could try to restore them for the middle class. For another, Republicans lost the last election. For a third, some responsible Republicans are finally standing up to their own extortionist, Grover Norquist, and his threats of political annihilation against any Republican willing to raise tax rates.

They're telling him to take a hike.


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