Does Obama have a mandate? The answer is yes and no. Democrats believe they have the upper hand in the fiscal cliff negotiations. To some extent they are correct. Obama did campaign on raising taxes on top income earners and he won with over 50% of the vote. So in this regard, Obama has a mandate and unfortunately, Republicans must concede on this issue. I do not like it, but the people have spoken. Republicans can try to get Democrats to agree to increase federal revenue by tax reform and eliminating itemized deductions for the wealthy instead of a tax increase, but one way or the other Republicans have to let Democrats increase taxes on the wealthy. And the equivalent amount of the tax increase should be equivalent to raising the top tax bracket from 35% to 39.6%. This is what Obama and Democrats campaigned for.
However, the initial plan proposed by the administration not only includes a 1.6 trillion dollar tax increase (over 10 years), but it includes 50 billion in new stimulus spending including mortgage refinance plans, and an end to congressional control over spending limits. In other words, this would give the President sole power to increase the debt ceiling. It would be outright scandalous for Republicans to yield the biggest deficit spender in American history essentially a blank check. Obama said he would work with Republicans to save 400 billion from entitlement spending next year – but there was no guarantee. Nor was there any guarantee Obama would pass any federal spending cuts of any kind in the next year. This is not a compromise; and what’s worse Obama did not campaign on any of these points. He did not campaign on passing a new stimulus nor did he say he wanted sole power over debt ceiling decisions. This is a power grab and he has no mandate on these points.
At the same time House Republicans campaigned on a platform of no tax increases, entitlement reform, and government spending cuts. House Republicans won over 50% of the vote and therefore, they too have a mandate (however, the presidential mandate is much more powerful). Hence, a true compromise would include tax increases on the wealthy and some sort of spending cuts or entitlement reform. This would be fair, but Obama and Democrats feel if the U.S. goes over the fiscal cliff and tax rates increase on all Americans – this would be blamed solely on the Republicans. For this reason, our President has spent more time campaigning in an attempt to gain the public’s favor instead of trying to work out a compromise to resolve the problem. This shows Obama’s flawed leadership skills, but obviously half the country is either too oblivious to realize this or just do not care.
The worst thing Republicans can do is to walk away from the table. This would definitely give credence to Democratic claims they are obstructionists. They should remain at the table, but at the same time they should not cave to Obama’s proposal without true compromise. This may be a good time for Republicans to embrace the Simpson-Bowles plan which has both spending cuts (discretionary and military) and tax increases on the wealthy (cuts tax loopholes). Obama created the Simpson-Bowles commission, which garnered some bipartisan support as a way to reduce federal debt. After all, how can Republicans be seen as obstructionists if they agree to the plan that Obama commissioned? I am sure the media will find a way to spin it. If Democrats refuse to compromise on spending cuts, then Republicans should let the country go over the fiscal cliff. We are already heading in that direction anyway and if this is what it will finally take for people to understand the consequences of liberal tax and spending policies, then so be it.