You have to hand it to President Obama. He appears to be on the path to obtaining his tax increase on the rich and spending cuts that may never materialize, all while fitting in his Hawaii vacation.
Republicans, after failing to pass John Boehner-crafted legislation to raise taxes on those making more than $1 million, seem on the way to having to live with something worse.
I don’t know what’s going to happen. But here is what seems to be shaping up:
Senate Republicans will cave first, with enough of them agreeing to pass legislation that increases tax rates on those making more than $400,000 or $500,000. Unemployment benefits are extended, and the estate tax goes up less than it would have. Meanwhile, agreement on an alternative to the spending cuts called for under the Fiscal Cliff scenario is probably put off until next year, with the Cliff cuts themselves either temporarily in effect or delayed.
This would pretty much be Obama Getting His Way.
The fault for this lies with Speaker Boehner and his utter failure of imagination. It’s the problem with Republicans these days in general and was the trouble with the Romney campaign in particular: The GOP, a home of intellectual ferment in the 1980s and 1990s, is now merely reactive.
Instead of his lazy attempt to pass tax increases for those making more than $1 million, Boehner should have put together a package that encompassed spending cuts and entitlement reform while keeping tax rates from rising.
That would have attracted solid GOP support, and perhaps even some Democrats, and given the country the message that Republicans are serious about averting the Fiscal Cliff and fixing the budget and, unlike Obama, have a plan to do it.
And then the pressure would have been on Obama, not the GOP.
Instead, like Romney, Boehner seems afraid the country won’t like Republicans if they embrace and promote a conservative agenda. So he waited around to see what Obama would do. And Obama did nothing except say, “Like my proposal, sucker.”
And now Boehner indeed might have to like it.