The PJ Tatler

What Today's Proposal and Its Rejection Tell Us About the Fiscal Cliff Standoff

Earlier today, House Speaker John Boehner offered the Democrats a proposal: Allow the Bush-era tax cuts on those earning more than $1 million to expire, while preserving those tax cuts for everyone else. The White House quickly rejected that proposal.

It turns out that Boehner’s proposal was one that Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats’ majority leader in the House, had offered back in May.

And yet the Democrats rejected it.

If it wasn’t clear before today, it’s abundantly clear now that the Democrats’ position in the fiscal cliff standoff is primarily political, not economic. Boehner’s proposal did not touch entitlement spending, saving that fight for another day. It only attempted to preserve the current tax rates for everyone making less than $1 million. The Democrats’ rejection of that proposal exposes the fact they are still interested in more than merely a counterproductive tax hike on certain wealthier Americans. They’re interested in that too, obviously, but they remain interested in the three things that have driven their side of the discussions since Obama’s re-election: Slashing defense to bare bones, spending more money via a stimulus to build up more loyalty to the Democrats, and dividing Republicans by forcing them into a vote that ends up raising taxes.

Until the Republicans on the Hill understand that those are the Democrats’ main goals with regard to the fiscal cliff, they won’t get anywhere. Today, at least, Boehner’s Plan B exposed the Democrats a bit. Unfortunately, too few Americans are really paying enough attention for today’s gambit to have done much good.