Paul Krugman comes up with one of the bright sides to heading for the fiscal cliff.
Now Republicans find themselves boxed in. With taxes scheduled to rise on Jan. 1 in the absence of an agreement, they can’t play their usual game of just saying no to tax increases and pretending that they have a deficit reduction plan. And the president, by refusing to help them out by proposing G.O.P.-friendly spending cuts, has deprived them of political cover. If Republicans really want to slash popular programs, they will have to propose those cuts themselves.
So while the fiscal cliff — still a bad name for the looming austerity bomb, but I guess we’re stuck with it — is a bad thing from an economic point of view, it has had at least one salutary political effect. For it has finally laid bare the con that has always been at the core of the G.O.P.’s political strategy.
This above all is what I think has got the Republicans so worked up. In 2011 they thought they had laid the perfect trap for President Obama in 2012. They figured he would either be a lame duck sitting out the last few weeks of his term after losing re-election, or even if he was re-elected, they could still roll him like they did the last time he extended the Bush tax cuts in 2010.
But he’s not falling for it this time and now we have the GOP coming up empty. Better yet, the White House is basically laying their own trap for them: propose deep cuts to popular programs and see who gets to campaign against them with that ammo in 2014.