Over the fiscal cliff we go

The GOP's insistence in protecting low taxes for the rich has businesses putting off new investments and hiring

Topics: Budget Showdown, U.S. Economy, Taxes, Fiscal cliff,

Over the fiscal cliff we go

From inauguration day onward, a favorite GOP go-to attack on Obama has been that his tax, spending and regulatory policy proposals were causing “uncertainty” about the future. This uncertainty about the shape of things to come was supposedly impelling business executives towards excessive caution, dampening their enthusiasm for hiring and investment.

This criticism, especially in the early years of Obama’s administration, always seemed precipitate. What could possibly cause more uncertainty about the future than a massive economic crash responsible for half a million layoffs a month during the worst of the crisis? Wouldn’t a decision not to pass new regulations on the banking sector after a systemic crash seem more scary than the possibility that some of the new rules might have costs? But the attack was still effective because it contains a nugget of truth. There seems little question that the debt ceiling showdown during the summer of 2011 — an incident entirely created by House Republicans — did indeed cause economically damaging uncertainty about the future.

Cue the déjà vu machine: On Monday, the New York Times provided new, distressing proof of the destabilizing impact of “uncertainty.” Look out, everyone, we’re about to tumble over the “fiscal cliff”!

A rising number of manufacturers are canceling new investments and putting off new hires because they fear paralysis in Washington will force hundreds of billions in tax increases and budget cuts in January, undermining economic growth in the coming months….

Hubbell, a maker of electrical products, has canceled several million dollars’ worth of equipment orders and delayed long-planned factory upgrades in the last few months, said Timothy H. Powers, the company’s chief executive. It has also held off hiring workers for about 100 positions that would otherwise have been filled, he said.

“The fiscal cliff is the primary driver of uncertainty, and a person in my position is going to make a decision to postpone hiring and investments,” Mr. Powers said. “We can see it in our order patterns, and customers are delaying. We don’t have to get to the edge of the cliff before the damage is done.”

You Might Also Like

So who gets the blame this time around? A cynical person would note that an economic downturn, right now, increases the GOP’s chances of moving into the White House. So from a realpolitik point of view, it’s hard to see a downside for Republicans. They can claim they’re acting on principle while executing a hugely advantageous strategic maneuver.

Judging by the Times’ reporting, however, business leaders are feeling extra apprehension this time around because Democrats are acting like Republicans!

Business leaders say the latest fight feels different. Last summer, during a confrontation over raising the debt limit that risked a government shutdown, Mr. Powers of Hubbell did not alter course at his company, as he is doing now. “We never expected the government to shut down,” he said. “This bluff carries much more weight.”

So why would Democrats willingly fling themselves over a fiscal cliff that threatens their own party more than the opposition? The answer to that requires a close look at what this struggle is really about. If no action is taken, taxes will rise by nearly $400 billion. But that scenario can only happen if the GOP sticks to its guns in refusing a tax hike on the wealthiest Americans. This whole fiscal cliff nightmare just goes away if Republicans are willing to make a deal that includes some revenue increases.

The closer you look, the more untenable the GOP’s negotiating position becomes. A majority of Americans support higher taxes on the rich. But the GOP is willing to crash the economy to defend historically low taxes on the Americans who have prospered the most over the last 30 years.

There’s only one reason why the GOP is refusing to budge. As history has shown again and again, Democrats will cave. So far, that doesn’t seem to be the case, a fact that justifiably has the business community worried. Executives are freaking out because Democrats are signaling that they can be crazy too. Maybe it’s time for them to pressure their GOP proxies to cut a deal — in the interests of everyone.

Andrew Leonard
Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>