Monday, December 3, 2012

Does Obama Have a Mandate

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.


  1. Good post, Patrick.

    One of the major differences between liberals and conservatives is that liberals understand they are at war with conservatives, but conservatives still tend to believe we are all in this together – one country united. Obama & Co. do what people do when they are at war – they strategize and focus all of their energy on trying to get the upper hand. What is the basic rule of negotiation with an adversary? Start high. That’s what Obama has done. He knows that if he asks for something outrageous like a tax hike of $1.6T with a ‘promise’ to cut spending later, he can give a lot on that for the appearance of negotiation and still end up with what he really wants, if not more.

    Republicans, on the other hand, act as though we’re all on the same team, so they naively begin their part of the negotiations by doing what you are never supposed to do – start with your best deal first. The only where to go from there is to move in Obama’s direction. I’m sorry to say it but we really have a bunch of dolts running our side of things.

    The smart strategy for Republicans would have been to start by demanding a tax CUT along with something like a 40% cut in deficit spending this year and continually reduced spending every year. That would have given them some room to negotiate, but instead they boxed themselves in and meanwhile, Obama is out building mob support for his side.

    Despite his mandate Republicans would still have significant power as the third leg of this 3-legged stool we call gov’t; HOWEVER, they already blew it by agreeing to the automatic sequestration and by not making the Bush tax cuts permanent when they had the chance.

  2. Yeah, CW, no question that Republicans can be their worst own worst enemy. It looks like the only way to get spending cuts is to go over the cliff and I am not so sure this a bad idea. It will hit us all hard, but for this country to change we are all going to have to feel the pain.