Poll Position: How to avoid the fiscal cliff?

The election is over, but there is real work to be done in Washington before President Obama even begins his second term. On Jan. 1, about seven and a half weeks from now, we take a flying leap over the fiscal cliff unless Obama and Congress can strike a deal to avoid it. Oh, and the debt ceiling will probably have to be raised again before the end of 2012, too.

How should Obama and Congress steer us away from the fiscal cliff? (Please vote for one tax option and one spending option)

  • Raise tax rates (53 Votes)
  • Cut spending across the board, cap future increases (48 Votes)
  • Reform entitlements to slow spending growth (46 Votes)
  • Close tax loopholes (45 Votes)
  • Focus on defense, other discretionary spending (39 Votes)
  • Do nothing; bring on the fiscal cliff! (19 Votes)
  • Be revenue-neutral, spark growth to raise revenue (18 Votes)
  • Create a VAT or other new tax (4 Votes)

Total Voters: 163

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This time, Obama is inheriting a mess from himself. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that going over the fiscal cliff would plunge us back into recession and push the unemployment rate back above 9 percent. So it’s a pretty darn important issue.

If Bob Woodward’s recent book portrayed him accurately, as a man who misreads his negotiating partners and overestimates his ability to best them, he’ll need every bit of those seven and a half weeks to reach an accommodation with the still-Democratic-held Senate and the still-GOP-led House.

(Obama’s first order of business? He’s leaving next week for a trip to visit three crucial allies of ours: Thailand, Burma and Cambodia.)

By all accounts, Obama and Congress will be taking another shot at the kind of “grand bargain” they nearly reached in the summer of 2011 before Obama reportedly tried to squeeze more revenue out of the deal and Speaker John Boehner balked. In practical political terms, this means Obama and Boehner have to cut a deal: The Senate has been an inoperable mess the past two years, there appears to be no bridge between Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and in his post-re-election afterglow Obama can afford to twist the arms of Senate Democrats even without Reid’s cooperation (and maybe some House Democrats without Nancy Pelosi’s help) if that’s what it takes.

In practical policy terms, we can expect some combination of more revenue and less spending. Any more detail beyond that is where it gets cloudy.

More revenue can take a lot of forms: Higher tax rates, fewer tax loopholes, some combination of the two, something totally new (such as a federal consumption tax, like the VATs in Europe). In reality, the revenue situation is not going to improve until the economy gets back to its pre-recession self.

Likewise, spending cuts mean different things to different people. In Washington, a spending “cut” usually really means slower increases in spending than would have happened otherwise. That has worked in the past, but time is no longer on our side. The only way merely slower growth in spending would work is if it takes place in a serious way in the main drivers of budget deficits: Social Security, Medicare and, to some degree, Medicaid.

So, what’s the best way to go about each problem? That’s this week’s Poll Position question. See the choices in the nearby poll and vote — you’ll be able to select two, preferably one on the tax side and one on the spending side — and then explain your position in the comments thread below.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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303 comments Add your comment

MarkV

November 9th, 2012
10:57 am

Kyle, first you have to fix the voting panel. It does not allow more than one choice.

Bye Bye Cheesy Grits

November 9th, 2012
11:01 am

Id say making people like Cheesy Grits pay a higher rate than 14 percent when the average America pays a much higher percentage would be a start.

When your Military is spending more than the next 10 countries combined something is wrong. Bring troops home from Germany and S Korea and other places where they aren’t really needed.

Some, like Cheesy Grits, are still stuck in a cold war way of thinking about the Military etc. Listen Russia isn’t going to invade anytime soon. Our biggest threat is terrorism anyway and you can fight that with a lean focused military.

Get rid off all the loopholes that allow some, like Cheesy Grits, to simply move their money to the Cayman Islands or to a Swiss bank account.

Aquagirl

November 9th, 2012
11:01 am

first you have to fix the voting panel. It does not allow more than one choice.

Hey, a compromise to combine revenue increases and spending cuts…oh, wait. Danged sneaky conservatives. :)

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

November 9th, 2012
11:06 am

Your poll wouldn’t let me vote for one tax and one spending choice, so I just picked closing tax loopholes.

I would have also picked the across the board cuts if I could.

Loved your snarky comment about Obama’s first order of business as well, Kyle. ;)

Nice to see he has his priorities in place. :roll:

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

November 9th, 2012
11:07 am

Whatever obozo does in the light of Congress, he’ll offset it in the dark of his socialist rathole.

MarkV

November 9th, 2012
11:07 am

There is again that “sky is falling” notion, in this case January 1st as a cliff to “take a flying leap” from. Actually, nothing much will happen if a decision is not reached by January 1st. True, some tax laws will nominally expire and others will take effect, but the Congress and the President can take retroactive action at a later date. Inaction by January 1st may cause a drop on the stock market, but we have seen those before and they do not have to have a permanent effect.

Dusty

November 9th, 2012
11:09 am

Kyle, two choices when the webpage allows only one???

I think we are going over the fiscal cliff but I will vote for something.

Close tax loopholes. Everybody gets the same treatment.

Cut spending across the board. We don’t have time to pick and choose. It is too late.

Will

November 9th, 2012
11:12 am

Two thoughts.

I like the Boortz 23% Flat Tax Rate Plan. If this was implemented, the rich like Governor Romney could never get away with paying a 14% tax rate. Can you imagine the additional revenue that would be generated from the rich if they had to pay a 23% tax rate?

I am a little disappointed in that we will never see the Romney/Ryan Super Duper Secret Plan to balance the budget by the end of their second term. Let’s see, cut spending and close “tax loopholes”, thereby increasing revenue. What loopholes? What Spending? That was the Super Duper Secret that we will never know!

In hindsight it may have been a bad idea to keep a Super Duper Secret from the American voters! Even lots of voters of the Pale Male Party had a hard time with that one.

MarkV

November 9th, 2012
11:13 am

The President campaigned on increasing taxes on the highest incomes. The polls show that idea to have support of the majority of people. The President won the reelection. Speaker Boehner should remember those facts.

WTF?

November 9th, 2012
11:13 am

By all means, Kyle – the obvious way to avoid the fiscal cliff is to screw the middle class, right?

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

November 9th, 2012
11:15 am

“Actually, nothing much will happen if a decision is not reached by January 1st.”

Really, MarkV?

Then I guess all those layoff notices to defense contractors won’t be going out when $500 billion in defense spending cuts take place?

Or is that just another way of keeping unemployment figures low by not reporting the largest state’s unemployment numbers just before the election?

1%er

November 9th, 2012
11:16 am

Govt spending and projected growth rates are clearly unsustainable. A balance of spending cuts and revenue increases has the best chance of improving the stability of our system, only if they are tied to a system to cap future spending increases. Politicians have an incentive to spend not just all they bring in, but more to keep as many constituents happy as possible – this needs to be curtailed by law.

What was lost in the debate on the rich paying their fair share is that raising tax rates to 39.6% or more for top income earners will not affect Mitt Romney or Warren Buffet. You need equalize all income – whether from investment (capital gains), or labor and tax at the same rate (hopefully keeping rates the same as now while increasing net revenue). This would level the playing field for those of us who are trying hard to get wealth to those who are living off their current wealth.

All 1%ers are not the same. Some of us pay 40+% taxes (including state) while others focused on by Obama and the media pay only 14%. Yet the solutions proposed hit those already paying high rates. It makes no sense.

All-American White Male (The vanishing breed)

November 9th, 2012
11:16 am

“(Obama’s first order of business? He’s leaving next week for a trip to visit three crucial allies of ours: Thailand, Burma and Cambodia.)”

Yet another taxpayer financed vacation? This guy has real class!

Heckle and JayKyle

November 9th, 2012
11:17 am

Obama is going to Thailand for Thai Sticks!! That explains Debate1. Obama was stoned! OMG. I figured it out. I’m at a McDonalds. there’s cars pulling up with screetching tires, and men in suits and guns….help, they’re ge

MarkV

November 9th, 2012
11:18 am

“Then I guess all those layoff notices to defense contractors won’t be going out when $500 billion in defense spending cuts take place?”

You guess right, for a change. No layoff notices will go out if there is still negotiation going on.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

November 9th, 2012
11:18 am

The Founding Fathers created a system of checks and balances inside of a Constitutional Republic which keeps democratic solutions (as in, the tyranny of the majority) from taking place.

The legislative branch is part of those checks and balances.

The President would be wise to remember that fact.

Lucius Dark

November 9th, 2012
11:18 am

Obama is dealing from a position of ultimate power now. If he just sits on his hands and does nothing three things will happen. 1. Huge defense cuts in RED states (with NO cuts to entitlements). 2. Tax increases on the wealthy kick in automatically. 3. The GOP will be perceived as thinking that saving billionaires from tax increases is more important than avoiding a recession. (which will result in the GOP loss of the house in 2 years). The only solution is to allow tax increases for the wealthy – anything else could be the last nail in the coffin of the Republican party.

Dusty

November 9th, 2012
11:19 am

Procrastination, thy name means put off until tomorrow as in free fall economics.

Sky divers say free fall is fun but i don’t want to try it. Not by jumping off the fiscal cliff. .

LKH

November 9th, 2012
11:19 am

You did not offer the president’s option for taxes–letting the Bush cuts expire for the wealthy. Biased poll?

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

November 9th, 2012
11:22 am

“No layoff notices will go out if there is still negotiation going on.”

Not in the real world, MarkV. Join us there sometime. If negotiations are still ongoing, yet not vote has been taken to delay the sequestration, the cuts go into effect, sonny.

Bye Bye Cheesy Grits

November 9th, 2012
11:25 am

Funny how Nate Silver andf the New York times pretty much nailed the election.

Dick Morris, Karl Rove, Kyles gut, they didnt do as well.

Heckle and JayKyle

November 9th, 2012
11:26 am

The truth about the fiscal cliff is that it’s the grand canyon and nothing can be done, except to send evel kneivel over it as a side show, (the election?).

If you say, “Cut Spending”, then nothing can be done. If you offer to raise taxes, then nothing can be done. If you offer both, then nothing can be done.

There is no solution. Nobody will cut spending. not my money. Go head. make my day. Nobody will raise taxes. Not my taxes. go head. make my day. nobody will do both. not my taxes and money. go head. make my day.

WE aren’t capable of even discussing the fiscal cliff, which is an idiotic way of saying resource allocation, than we are of discussing medical pot, man.

Dusty

November 9th, 2012
11:26 am

Oh yes! Let us sack the rich and then we can all be poor together. What a brilliant idea!

Too bad the communist thought of it before we did. Awwwww

Bye Bye Cheesy Grits

November 9th, 2012
11:27 am

The President would be wise to remember that fact.

The Republicans just got their tails kicked in the election.

White House – Lost
Senate – Lost Seats
House – Lost Seats

They should remember that fact.

2014 isn’t that far off and if they dont work with Obama Republicans will lose the House.

Bye Bye Cheesy Grits

November 9th, 2012
11:28 am

Oh yes! Let us sack the rich and then we can all be poor together. What a brilliant idea!

No one is saying that.

But when Mitt Romney pays 14 percent and I’m paying 30 percent

Something is wrong.

MarkV

November 9th, 2012
11:29 am

I told you once before, Tiberius, but I understand your memory is faulty, so I will repeat: I am not your son, would be ashamed if I were. You already had to stop the mocking distortions of blog names you had practiced, and that should have taught you.

Heckle and JayKyle

November 9th, 2012
11:30 am

How angry is the Right? While Obama was giving his victory speech, Hannity was saying, “Shut up and start dealing with the nation’s problems. He’s going on and on when he could be fixing the fiscal cliff.”

That’s sooooo angry. Poor Hannity, he needs some medical pot. I suggest a vacay to the Rocky Mountains.

Kyle Wingfield

November 9th, 2012
11:30 am

Sorry, everyone, about the one-answer thing. Apparently, any time I make any other change to the poll, it reverts back to allowing only one choice for some reason. It should be fixed now — and stay fixed, as long as there aren’t any other problems with the poll.

Heckle and JayKyle

November 9th, 2012
11:33 am

Now that there’s nothing at stake, I would like to see Romney’s tax returns. If there’s nothing to hide, then it’s going to make Obama look really bad and give Boehner the moral ascendancy to fix the fiscal cliff his way.

Show us the returns! Show us the returns!! (everybody shout this).

Oblama

November 9th, 2012
11:34 am

How to avoid the fiscal cliff . Maybe a nation wide lottery to reduce the debt? Better make it quick.

iggy

November 9th, 2012
11:35 am

Boner and company should give Obama what he wants. The result will be a huge mess and laid at the dems feet for the 2016 elections.

PS…get ready for the impeding mountain of pink slips and business closings.

Beyond The Middle of the Road

November 9th, 2012
11:37 am

The main purpose of the President’s trip is to attend the East Asia Summit. The three stopovers in Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand are visits of convenience. The Summit is being attended by Premiers, Prime Ministers and Presidents from a lot of high-profile countries including China, Russia, India, Japan, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and many others. The timing of the trip may not be ideal but the importance of the trip can not be underestimated. Heck, the very fact that China is throwing a temper tantrum over the Myanmar stopover is worth the price of admission. And keep in mind that we finally swapped ambassadors with this country earlier this year for the first time since the Bush 41 administration so this visit will help seal the newly improved relationship we have with that country.

Oblama

November 9th, 2012
11:37 am

Heckle – Now that the election is over show me Obama’s birth certificate and his transcripts. The IRS has Romney’s tax records. Have they charged him with illegalities? NO……

Oblama

November 9th, 2012
11:39 am

Obama’s on the way to see his comrade, the former leader of the KGB, Vlad Putin and take care of what he promised him after the election. He will take care of the fiscal cliff later if it’s not to late.

iggy

November 9th, 2012
11:40 am

I want to see the Bush tax cuts expire. I can handle any tax increase, can you?

Dusty

November 9th, 2012
11:41 am

Hey, let us not condemn President Obama’s important triip to Thailand , Cambodia, etc.

He has a PLAN!

First: He will bring some of that great Thai cuisine back and feed Congress. Voila! Le compromise!

Second: He will bring a promise from Cambodia to rid itself of Pol Pot. Eureka! A great achievement! Democrats celebrate at the UN. (But but Pol Pot died in 1998. But let us not bother with minutia.)

Oblama

November 9th, 2012
11:41 am

Fiscal cliff? Can you stop a speeding locomotive in two seconds?

middle of the road

November 9th, 2012
11:41 am

I think the choices in the survey are too limiting. What it may take is a combination of all of the above!!

I do believe we need to look at some things separately – such as Social Security and Medicare. These should have separate budgets and should be balanced within ts own budget. Unlike some folks, I don’t think Medicare should be subsidized with general income tax revenue. Also things such as the Highway trust fund should have a balanced budget within their own budget.

Bye Bye Cheesy Grits

November 9th, 2012
11:41 am

Heckle – Now that the election is over show me Obama’s birth certificate and his transcripts. The IRS has Romney’s tax records. Have they charged him with illegalities? NO……

Wow. The birther stuff still lives on.

Republican party = Fail

And btw nobody said Romney did anything illegal.

He didn’t. He just didn’t want everybody to see how little he actually paid in taxes.

As it stands just a few years returns and Americans seeing that he only paid 14 percent was bad enough for him.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

November 9th, 2012
11:42 am

MarkV’s blather at 11:29 shows he’s incapable of admitting he was wrong on his earlier point.

Bye Bye Cheesy Grits

November 9th, 2012
11:43 am

I want to see the Bush tax cuts expire. I can handle any tax increase, can you?

Sure. I can.

Somebody has to pay all those bills we’ve been running up with out of control military spending and two unfunded wars.

The bill is coming due.

Oblama

November 9th, 2012
11:44 am

If Obama has reduced the Fed debt by ONE CENT from what it is today by the end of his 2nd term I will donate my house to his favorite charity. Unfortunately I won’t be moving out.

Logical Dude

November 9th, 2012
11:44 am

Raise Tax Rates
Close Tax Loopholes
Reform Entitlements
Focus on Defense, other discretionary spending

Yes, we are in a deep hole, and only one or two choices will not get us to where we need to be. Large actions across the board affecting everyone in the country. We are all in this together, so we will all need to act for the good of the country (by either paying more, or receiving less).

ALL OF US.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

November 9th, 2012
11:44 am

“And btw nobody said Romney did anything illegal.”

How quickly the clueless forget. That’s ALL you Obama folks could insinuate when Romney didn’t give you what you wanted.

Stephanie Cutter called him a felon (although it wasn’t on his tax returns).

iggy

November 9th, 2012
11:45 am

And so what if the Obama tax plan gave to all those making below $25K annually, $50 extra per their pay period. Thats a cut equivalent to $50 in their pocket, per pay period…lettuce just suppose?

Would that be enough? Would $100 per pay period be enough? How much would it take? Anyone?

All-American Angry White Male (The vanishing breed)

November 9th, 2012
11:48 am

Kyle:

The ONLY way this can be done is by:

Cut spending across the board, cap future increases, and raise tax rates on everone equally.

Bye Bye Cheesy Grits

November 9th, 2012
11:48 am

How quickly the clueless forget. That’s ALL you Obama folks could insinuate when Romney didn’t give you what you wanted.

Not me. I’m sure some did.

I dont remember Obama ever saying that or any of his surrogates.

Anyway the point remains.

Romney did not break the law.

But there is a reason he didn’t release those returns dummy.

He didn’t want people to see how little he paid in taxes.

End of story.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

November 9th, 2012
11:48 am

“The main purpose of the President’s trip is to attend the East Asia Summit. ”

Some people might actually feel as if avoiding a fiscal cliff might be more important than this photo-op.

Send Biden.

Ooops, never mind . . .

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

November 9th, 2012
11:49 am

Obama’s first order of business? He’s leaving next week for a trip to visit three crucial allies of ours: Thailand, Burma and Cambodia.)

Yeah, Cons don’t know we can work by phone, fax, video, email, etc. Always have to be in the room in case the landline rings!

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

November 9th, 2012
11:49 am

I should amend : avoiding a fiscal cliff that could take down the world’s largest economy and bring the rest of the world with it”