So cancel the "cliff." If politicians are determined to enter into another suicide pact -- and to commit political harakari in the process -- there's another "crisis" looming in the first quarter of 2013. That's when Congress has to approve the debt-ceiling limit. If they want another round of brinksmanship, they can engage in it then. (Not that we're recommending it, of course.)
Right now they need to kill the cliff, if only for their own selfish reasons. Boehner and his Congressional Republicans have painted themselves into a corner. The public's against them -- and they know it.
That's why Boehner already offered to delay the "cliff," way back on November 16. (Seems like such a long time ago, doesn't it?)
The President should take him up on the offer. Now.
It's also a potentially face-saving moment for the President, one that allows him to walk away from his own badly-received proposal. If he's still so inclined, he can still say all the things he's said before in similar situations -- "I was willing to go to great lengths to compromise... I put my own party's 'sacred cows' on the table," etc. etc.
It doesn't matter very much at this point how he walks away. But he needs to walk away.
Time is on the President's side, since the public already favors him and the Democrats on budget issues, by resounding margins -- and because it opposes some of the measures in his latest proposal, like his Social Security cuts (opposed by 56 percent of those polled) and his compromise on the $250,000-and-above tax increase (which was supported by 69 percent of voters).
The people who formed his winning coalition would appreciate it, too, and so would the organizations that represent them. Twenty-eight of them (including the Campaign For America's Future, where I am a Senior Fellow) came together to write an open letter and run an ad in the Washington Post the day after the election, reminding the President of the issues and priorities that built his winning campaign: keeping that $250,000 tax hike, avoiding Medicare and Social Security benefit cuts (included the chained CPI), extending unemployment insurance, protecting the most vulnerable among us -- and preventing the sequester.
With "fiscal cliff" hysteria finally behind us, the President will be able to devote all his energy representing the people who elected him.
The Next 100 Days
100 days: That's roughly the time left before the debt-ceiling limit kicks in and another round of hostage negotiations begins.
The President can use that time to make the case for genuine economic fixes, the kind the public wants and expects him to propose: a genuine jobs program. Other strong stimulus proposals. An end to Bush tax cuts over $250,000.
(He should also support Rep. Jan Schakowsky's Fairness in Taxation Act too, which asks millionaires and billionaires to contribute more to our national wealth -- although it's not nearly as much as they paid under Republican Presidents like Eisenhower and Nixon.)
He can use the time to defend education funding, anti-poverty programs, Medicare ... and yes, Social Security. He can build his political muscle that way, too.