A Liberal Obama vs. a Moderate Obama in the Fiscal Debate
THROUGHOUT Washington, policy makers are debating how to avoid hitting a wall on Jan. 1, when large and abrupt tax increases and spending cuts will take effect automatically unless Congress acts. The debate is perhaps no more fervent than it is inside the head of our newly re-elected president, who must now decide what kind of policy leader he will become, both in this confrontation and throughout his second term.
Here is the dialogue, as I imagine it, between the two policy wonks — the Moderate Obama and the Liberal Obama — struggling for control of the president’s soul.
THE MODERATE OBAMA: I am sure glad the election is behind us. I was really getting tired of giving all those platitudinous campaign speeches …
THE LIBERAL OBAMA: Yeah, me too.
MOD: … and beating up on Bain Capital.
LIB: Actually, I enjoyed that. It’s fun to make the plutocrats squirm.
MOD: The good news for the nation is that we can now resolve the budget impasse quickly and avoid the fiscal cliff.
LIB: Really? I don’t see how.
MOD: Didn’t you listen to Speaker Boehner’s press conference the other day? He’s finally conceded the need for more tax revenue. He is ready to throw Grover Norquist’s tax pledge under the bus.
LIB: You think Boehner is ready to raise income tax rates for the rich? I don’t think so.
MOD: Well, sure, he won’t agree to increase tax rates, but he is ready to increase tax revenue by broadening the tax base. As long as the rich pay more, I don’t care how we do it.