During one of the debates between George W. Bush and Al Gore, then-President Bush coined the term "fuzzy math." Well, Democrats seem to be using "fuzzy math" on the American people by trying to make the case for more tax increases on the wealthy, as a means of heading off the sequester, which they claim along with Republicans will have dire consequences for many Americans if it is allowed to happen.
The January "fiscal cliff" was avoided because Republicans joined Democrats ti allow the Bush tax cuts to remain in place for middle-class Americans who earn less than $450,000.00. President Obama had campaigned on allowing them to expire only for those earning less than $250,000.00 a year. The President and Democrats agree to the $450,000.00 figure as a concession to Republicans if the taxes were allowed not rise of the those he previously defined as middle class.
Republicans made a big concession because presumably the political backlash of such tax increases on the middle class would have forced them to agree to cut middle-class cuts in January. Whatever the reasons, Democrats had the Bush tax cuts made permanent for the middle class and taxes-cuts were allowed to expire (or taxes were allowed to be raised) on the wealthy--and on some of those making than $450,000.00 a year who may or may not be wealthy.
Democrats took great joy in gloating over Republicans being between a political rock and a hard place, being on the defensive and forced to agree to a compromise. But Democrats eventually may be perceived by the American people to be over-playing their hand. It is certainly looking that way to me.
President Obama wants even more tax cuts imposed on the wealthy by disallowing to them certain tax exemptions such as mortgages interest and state taxes. Certainly there are people who are wealthy enough to not be significantly disadvantaged by such new taxes. However, that probably should not reach down to those earning $450,000.00. The middle class got their part of the deal when the Bush tax cuts were not allow to expire for them.
Americans must be willing to take our medicine when it comes to making adjustments that are necessary to bring the national debt under control and keep Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security solvent for the coming generations. I have recommended over the past twenty years of more that Medicare and Social Security should be means-tested. I thought that, at some level of income, Social Security benefits and Medicare benefits, except in cases of catastrophic illnesses, should be discontinued. The recommendation was that these might be phased out.
How to best means-test is still something to be debated, but the main thing is that something has to be done to address the increasing number of high income people who are entering retirements and the increasing number of low income workers who are taking their places. There will come a time when the baby-boomers will have passed on and there will be less demands on Social Security and Medicare. But until then adjustment must be made to address the present nature of the American population and status of our economy. Republicans keep saying the President needs to lead. But when he leads they don't follow. Maybe they mean he needs to lead his own party. But it is just as likely that Democrats don't want to be lead either. Nevertheless, Democrats must be willing to give some on entitlement reforms since that is where most knowledgeable people are say significant dents in the deficit can be made. Boomers are living longer and end-of-life expenses are increasing, as ways of keeping terminally ill people experiencing ends of life that are lasting longer and making health-care costs increase, perhaps indefinitely.
My understanding is that the ratio of the national debt to the nation's gross domestic product has been in a steady recent decline as a result of actions taken by President Obama during his presidency. But how that positive trend should impact the need to address the debt in a more direct manner is less certain. It becomes part of the fuzzy math of debt reduction.
Republicans on the far right may be wrong for being unwilling to compromise, but despite being right from their own point of view about taxes and size of government, they become of no consequence when compromises can be shown to be a fair ratio of spending cuts to increased revenues and can attract the support of more broadminded Republicans. As was shown in addressing the fiscal cliff standoff, there is still the possible of a compromise that can head-off the sequester. President has on several occasions said that entitlements must be on the table. That's what Republican say they want. The sequester does not achieve that.
But American politics may be more fuzzy than the debt figures they debate. Republicans say they want President Obama to lead. Assuming they may really mean lead them too, maybe he should do so by submitting a plan that is "right" for the times bad Republican even if the average American voter may not understand why. People have their own opinions, but at some point people expect their leaders to do "the right thing," much as President Obama is asking Republicans to do, despite opposition from their bases.
President Obama was elected to be President of the United States for the next four years, to lead the country and the Democratic party not to be led by them. Unless Democrats get behind their president and give Republicans more of what they want this time, Democrats will be no more deserving of the people's votes in 2014 than the Republican--and there is no third choice. The House coalition that averted the fiscal cliff can also avert the sequester if Democrats make it possible.