Newt Gingrich vs. Johnny Isakson on the fiscal cliff

One of two Republicans you know quite well is struggling with reality. Your job this evening is to decide which one.

On Wednesday, former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich, in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., declared the fiscal cliff to be a gross fiction, and urged House Republicans not to “cave” to President Barack Obama. From the Daily Caller:

“There is no fiscal cliff. It’s absolute, total, nonsense,” Gingrich said.

Former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich. (AP file /Jeff Roberson)

Former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich. (AP file /Jeff Roberson)

“It is an excuse to panic. It’s a device to get all of us running down the road so we accept whatever Obama wants because otherwise we have failed the fiscal cliff, and how can you be a patriot if you don’t do what the fiscal cliff requires, and the fiscal cliff will appear to us one afternoon, much like the land of Oz, where there will be this person hiding behind the machine who will say, ‘Raise taxes now,’” Gingrich intoned, “and if you don’t raise taxes you’ll have violated the fiscal cliff.”

“Now, do any of you want to be the person who stands up and destroys America by violating the fiscal cliff? Do you want to go on one of the national networks and explain that you are so reactionary, so out of touch with life, that you don’t care that America is going to die late on Thursday?” Gingrich scoffed.

The former speaker’s remarks called to mind a much-overlooked speech given by Johnny Isakson on the floor of the U.S. Senate earlier this month. You can watch it here, but I’ve transcribed the relevant portion. Isakson referred to the crisis as a “day of reckoning:”

”We’re in a very dangerous position. And I’ve been in this body one other time when we’ve faced a fiscal cliff. It was in September of 2008, and I will never forget it. The markets had been collapsing, the subprime securities had been collapsing, the world was in difficult financial times.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson/AJC file

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson/AJC file

“The president of the United States – at that time a Republican – brought forward a plan to solve that problem, or at least to forestall the collapse of the market. …The House of Representatives rejected it, and the markets went down over 800 points in one day. Two days later, the Senate came back and adopted a plan to move us forward. The markets stabilized, but they were already at the bottom. They’d fallen by 50 percent…

“It’s one thing to gain the confidence of the world’s investors and body politics. It’s another thing to lose it. If you ever lose that confidence, if you ever go off that cliff and people no longer think this is the greatest place on the face of the earth to invest their money, then America has a harder struggle to come back than it would ever have by facing our problems now.”

“…We face a fiscal cliff. There are some in this chamber that say we need to go off of it. We’ll pay the price, and we’ll finally sit down and do what’s right. I would, with all due respect, say that’s pretty stupid.”

There is no smoothing over this. One of these two conservatives is remarkably wrong. Fortunately, we’ve devised a foolproof test to help you decide which one.

More than likely, you have a 401(k) account. It isn’t as large as you’d like, but you’ve been diligent and it represents a sizable amount of cash.

Now, imagine yourself in a room that’s empty except for a table, the former U.S. House speaker, and Georgia’s junior U.S. senator. You must sign over control of your retirement fund – all the money that will let you retire at 65 rather than 85 – to one of these gentlemen for the next eight weeks. Which one will it be?

Pick your man, and you’ve just decided whether the fiscal cliff is real or not. Because for small fry like you and me, our 401(k) funds are the chips in this very real game of poker.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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59 comments Add your comment

GaBlue

November 29th, 2012
5:28 pm

I wasn’t frightened until I read this column. The imagery invoked by the description of the room with a table, the 401K, and Frosty the Snow Beast is terrifying!

Matt

November 29th, 2012
5:29 pm

What are you talking about? A return to Clinton-era tax rates, and the automatic sequestration of the budget, is going to destroy the stock market? Are you serious? The relevant comparison, if any, would be to when America’s credit rating was downgraded. Market reaction? A yawn.

The fiscal cliff isn’t even a cliff. We’re not talking about a one time immediate impact. Tax withholding will change on people’s paychecks. DoD will have to figure out how to make do without a small portion of their budget, and spread out that impact over a year. The rest of the government will have to figure that out as well – the same thing that’s happened here in Georgia every time the governor proposes an across the board cut in spending.

I’m not saying this is a good thing. We don’t need austerity, we need stimulus. But it’s not the end of the world either, as much as I hate to agree with Newt. It’s exactly what the phony fiscal hawks have been asking for. The only problem for them is that it’s the military-industrial complex made to feel the pain, not the poor and sick.

nathan's political arsonist

November 29th, 2012
5:37 pm

i wouldn’t pick noot to clean up after my dog

Just Wait

November 29th, 2012
5:41 pm

This “cliff” was created by Republicans during the debate over raising the debt ceiling which was followed by the failure of the Super Committee to reach an agreement. Compromise is still a dirty word in D.C. and the squeaky wheels on each side of the political spectrum are still getting the grease. You ask which of these two I would trust? Isackson continues to tote water for the Republican party, but I wouldn’t trust Gnewt with a penny for the gumball machine.

Kris

November 29th, 2012
5:42 pm

Two GOP slime bags idiots full of dog poop.

Cherokee

November 29th, 2012
6:07 pm

Matt is correct – especially the part about agreeing with Newt, who is mostly insane, while Johnny shows occasional signs of statesmanship.

But the threat of going back to Cliniton era levels of taxing and spending would be a good thing – not a catastrophe.

Andy

November 29th, 2012
6:23 pm

I wish Johnny would go home and take his good buddy Saxby with him…. I am sick of these two

honested

November 29th, 2012
6:35 pm

noot is accidentally right.
The only way to disarm the hostage takers is to go ‘over the cliff’ and then start over with taxing all types of income at the same (Clinton Era) rates, raising the ‘cap’ on payroll taxes (to at least 250,000.00 if not eliminating it entirely) and return to the conditions that produce real economic growth.

Yes the speculators will panic, but how much do the speculators really do to improve broad economic conditions?

Voter

November 29th, 2012
7:37 pm

I agree. The “fiscal cliff” is a bluff. The White House doesn’t want to be forced into taking cuts especially after all the promised made to his “voters”

All Your Skin Folk Ain't Your Skin Folk

November 29th, 2012
7:38 pm

Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and

a tongue of a dog.

DeborahinAthens

November 29th, 2012
8:10 pm

@Voter, the fiscal cliff was created by the gutless Republicans who decided to make these arbitrary cuts so severe that they would be forced to do something to fix our fiscal problems before 12/31/12. They’ve had a year to fix it, and they can’t get out of their own way. As one editorial put it, “Congress put a bullet in a gun, put the gun to their head, and on December 31 they have to pull the trigger.” You see, they thought the Presbo would be a Repug, and they could implement dimwit Ryan’s budget, but surprise, surprise, surprise! So where do you get off saying the White House is bluffing? I have prepared my clients for the worst case scenario, so bring it on. Boehner cannot manage the Republicans. If he could we would have reached a compromise last year when he made an agreement with Obama and had the members of his party rip him a new one. We are here where we are today because of Republican obstructionism, pure and simple. Spin it any way you like. We know the truth. Newt’s been hitting the joy juice again.

Weetamoe

November 29th, 2012
8:22 pm

If the *fiscal cliff* peril is as dire as they claim, Obama and followers are remarkably sanguine about it. To avert such catastrophe of which you speak a genuine leader, a competent president, a decent man, would interrupt his perennial campaign and call house and senate leaders to a non-stop conference to find a solution. Bowles, the democrat liberal half of the Simpson /Bowles team has just accused the democrats of being the recalcitrant ones. It is really Obama’s responsibility to do his job. The apparent lack of concern about global warming and fiscal cliff among our esteemed dems suggest that they are about to cry wolf themselves hoarse while blithely continue living the lives that contradict what they claim to be their reality. Isaacson’s main concern is his family realty business, so I guess Newt is by default the most disinterested, and therefore most credible.

Weetamoe

November 29th, 2012
8:26 pm

Fact is we are stuck with a shiftless incompetent for a president and the republicans are I hope too smart to play his shell game.

Voter

November 29th, 2012
8:43 pm

@DeborahinAthens – Stop watching MSNBC and CNN. If the White House won’t out a budget together, which is against the LAW, then the automatic cuts go into effect. Know what you are talking about and stop listening to the media.

Voter

November 29th, 2012
8:43 pm

@DeborahinAthens – Stop watching MSNBC and CNN. If the White House won’t put a budget together, which is against the LAW, then the automatic cuts go into effect. Know what you are talking about and stop listening to the media.

Voter

November 29th, 2012
8:45 pm

How in the world can people still support an Administration that breaks the law then blames it on others. Enough of the blame game.

Voter

November 29th, 2012
8:48 pm

And by the way, who do you blame for hussein obama not submitting a BUDGET!!!!!!!!!!!!!??????????? That’s on him, no one else, not newt, not the republican’s, not the former administration, HIM!

Kris

November 29th, 2012
9:14 pm

The President does not fix the economy…only Congress can do that

I have been watching Boehner,
He is flop flopping like a fish on land from sonny’s fish farm.

Let me say he looks like he has been on a 3 day drunk…still stupid. The repub’s do not need to redefine themselves as we all know what they are GOP (scum) they are willing and might still tank the economy to get their idiot in the White house…Wrong they need to do what is right FIX the damn ECONOMY… Then fix all the other PROBLEMS they caused.

Voter

November 29th, 2012
9:25 pm

@Kris – Love the name calling. Is that the best you got? Government spending is what has got us here, not the republican’s. 16+ trillion in debt is the direct result of this administration’s, (5+ trillion , past 4 year) reckless spending, not the republican’s. No budget submitted from the White House, not the republican’s fault either. Taxing is the problem not the solution. You can’t keep giving away money. Try it sometime and see how little you will have left. Wake up.

Kris

November 29th, 2012
9:39 pm

voter, looks like you woke up on the loosing side…Too bad.

I was not talking about the budget…Wake up, its the so called fiscal cliff, which the GOP created in their quest to take over the White House

I;m open to new names to call the Rape mongering GOP slime balls. Stupid looking drunk speaker of the house. and Smitty and his pet Moe.

Prof

November 29th, 2012
9:46 pm

I seem to remember that when Clinton was President back in the 1980s and Newt was Speaker of the House, they were in a similar situation where Newt and his Republicans refused to compromise and said the “fiscal cliff” was a myth…and Clinton called his bluff. And the whole government closed down for about a week or two…government checks didn’t go out…biggest mess you ever saw….and the Republicans capitulated.

Go, Obama!

romegaguy

November 29th, 2012
9:48 pm

Newt isnt who I would want to listen to about fiscal responsibility unless I was selling Tiffany’s jewelry

Voter

November 29th, 2012
9:54 pm

@Kris, 1st, it’s spelled losing, not loosing. 2nd, the automatic cuts, or “fiscal cliff” the media is pushing is because a budget has not been submitted in 4 years and spending is out of control, so Congress put in a Law that would do the job when the pres. refused to do his. Know what you are talking about before shooting your mouth off.

Voter

November 29th, 2012
9:56 pm

@Prof. – Reagan was President in the ’80’s not Clinton.

Voter

November 29th, 2012
10:05 pm

It’s called the Budget Control Act of 2011 and hussein obama signed it.

Kris

November 29th, 2012
10:13 pm

voter…if that is what you are…..Last time I looked this was Jim Galloway Political insider forum not Jim’s personal attack forum.

Cherokee

November 29th, 2012
10:17 pm

So, voter, what cuts would you recommend? What are the dollar amounts of those cuts, and the percentage of the deficit? And how would you sell those cuts to the American people?

By the way, don’t look now, but the deficit is falling at the fastest rate in US history. But I’m sure that’s just because of the courageous Republicans working so hard to make cuts, right?

LOGIC

November 29th, 2012
10:20 pm

2008 has taught this country nothing and only reinforces that the government is around to reward bad behavior. Accountability no longer exists. The FACT is that BHObama has created more debt ($16T+) in his 4 horrible years in office than other presidents combined and has very little to show for the debt. His energy policies have been a catastrophic waste of taxpayer dollars (e.g., solyndra, chevy volt), his utter lack of understanding of economics is comical and has depressed the country through an extended period of time costing families and companies their livelihood and he has set records on creating government dependency.

Both the GOP and the Dems are ruining this country. It is time to abolish our two party structure and get real representation for the people. Without term limits, we will continue to have these worthless dregs suck up our tax dollars and continue to erode our country into irrelevancy. China owns over 30% of our debt!!! You do the math on $16T.

We are not rewarding those who save nor are we creating any incentives for those middle class families who live on a budget, save for a rainy day and do not milk the government cow. Liberals can’t talk about budget cuts and it is ok to have taxpayers pay for every irresponsible individual and corporation. No one is too big to fail, whether it be a corporation or a careless individual who cant take care of his or own health or understand that homeownership is not something for them. Why don’t we teach Finance 101 in high schools yet? The government couldn’t survive if the populace became fiscally literate!

Work ethic is something that this administration will never understand. Neither Obama nor his wife are self-made and they will continue to squander taxpayer dollars on lavish vacations to Spain, Hawaii and record rounds of golf. Unfortunately, the country has spoken and the way of the Obama family is the way of the future – we “deserve” to have these lives if we can bs our way through things like these two have. Let’s not forget that Obama had next to zero experience when elected the first time and was reelected based upon an abysmal record. Mediocrity now rules the roost from the Penn Ave to Main St. Our national standards have forever been lowered.

Never thought I would say I miss Bubba. Maybe he and Hillary can get Chelsea to run and bring some real hope for our children’s future into the office. Experience is no longer required for the position and seems to be a deterrent for Americans.

Voter

November 29th, 2012
11:04 pm

@LOGIC – Agreed! Well Said. @Kris, @Prof @Cherokee. Read what Needs to be done. Couldn’t have said it any better.

Voter

November 29th, 2012
11:08 pm

Also, if you haven’t seen it yet, go see the movie Lincoln. Saddest thing is when I see the real great President’s of our history, it’s sad to think how much our forefather’s and people sacrificed to continue our great Nation and that we have now become this. These past 4 years and the next 4 years to come and generations after. Sad.

An observer

November 29th, 2012
11:23 pm

The more i listen to the debate, and the more i think about it, the more i think that Newt is right on this one. I do not think that the president believes the fiscal cliff is a big deal either.

Stephen Luftschein

November 30th, 2012
2:09 am

Truly a strange column. Not discussing the fact that the markets in ‘o8 were responding as much to the near bankruptcy of several of the EU members, where is the market today?

And more directly, if you are going to do ANYTHING with a 401K for 8 weeks, it should be only in the safest investments anyway, NEVER the stock market.

Mike

November 30th, 2012
3:21 am

I think losing to Obama was an economic disaster but I am also concerned that our leadership is going to make it worse. They have to make the economy belong to the Democrats and they are not going to do that being perceived as obstructionists by the voting ignorant. The only way to do that is to tell everybody that increasing Job Creator expenses is a bad idea but they have to go along because the fiscal cliff is worse.

There are 2 things the Republican leadership needs to do.

1. If the Dems want to raise taxes on small businesses…let them…but tell everybody that it is a bad idea and vote present.

2. Do not sponsor or support any changes to Obamacare? If they want to make changes, let them…but vote present. Make them put their name on the changes…then use that in the next election. Fiscally useful changes are going to be unpopular to the voting masses.

If enough small businesses are hit with Obamacare and increased taxes, I think Atlas will Shrug, unemployment will skyrocket and the Dems will have to make some unpopular changes. Currently they are doing the popular things and using Republicans as scapegoats when they do not go over so well.

That is a gamble and it will not be pretty short term but I think that is a lot better than them continuing to come across as obstructionists to the voting Entitlement gang. From my experience, some people have to hit bottom before there is a chance of them changing.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Attack Dog

November 30th, 2012
5:40 am

1. The federal debt was $10 trillion at the start of 2009 and we had a $1.5 trillion annual budget deficit. If Obama is responsible for $16 trillion in deficit spending, shouldn’t our national debt be closer to $30 trillion?
2. If memory serves, the last time Newton Leroy made a budget prediction it didn’t go too well. Isn’t this the same guy who predicted that he would win the Republican nomination?

WAW

November 30th, 2012
6:30 am

The Speaker and the President had the makings of an agreement over a year ago but House Republicans refused it. Then they suggested the “kick it down the road” to December 2012, which of course would be after they had succeeded in making Obama a one term President. But as DeborahinAthens pointed out, that didn’t happen. So now, they get the honor of raising taxes on everyone. Same song but last verse because their control of the House is fasts making an exit. The President need only to stick to his 2008 campaign issue of ending the Bush tax cuts on income over $250,000. Will it happen? Yes! Earliest possible, now. Latest possible, 2014, after the effects of Republican Tax Increase of 2012 sinks in.

And Mike: Small Business argument is sooo Tom DeLay.

Buckhead Boy

November 30th, 2012
6:55 am

Give Newt forty-eight hours and he’ll utter something juxtaposed. Newt is to real thinking like Fox News is to real news.

Marlboro Man

November 30th, 2012
6:58 am

Newt is a pandering idiot, any press swells his head. What is his job?

Ronnie Raygun

November 30th, 2012
7:13 am

Obama is following the will of the people. 53% of America agreed with his platform.Every poll shows that around 60% of the American people want taxes raised on upper income and do not want Social Security or Medicare cuts or the eligibility ages raised.

Boner and the GOPers can spit in the face of the American people if they want. They will pay the price at the voting booth in 2014. That’s why they are too cowardly to even propose any cuts to “entitlements”.

The American people have spoken. Fornicate the GOPers and their supply-side drivel.

clem

November 30th, 2012
8:19 am

mitt got drubbed, dems won house in terms of number of votes (gerrymandering protected repubs), business execs caving on rates, cbo & csr report taxing top 2% not adverse to economy, & exit polls showed folks favoring taxing 2% by 60-40, several repub congressmen conceding tax position……seems pretty convincing whose side is more in control.

tired of politics

November 30th, 2012
8:22 am

A few points:
1. Obama came up with the fiscal cliff idea not republicans, ask Woodward about that. His book claims that Obama personally came up with that idea.
2. A deal was had with Boehner but the democrats wanted more revenue so after Obama agreed to the deal, he had to pull it back.
3. Obama needs to submit a plan, the current offer is a joke.
4. Raising tax rates doesn’t increase revenue. Study history, what happened to dividend and interest revenue when rates were lowered under Bush, what happened under Kenned, Reagan and Bush?
5. Raising tax rates doesn’t come close to sovling the problem, we have a huge deficit yet close to record revenues (on an absolute basis). Have you ever thought to ask yourself why?
6. Obamacare will hurt jobs and economic growth and does nothing to reduce healthcare spending, in fact, it increases it. Another entitlement program in the mist of the budget situation is so absurd it is hard to even take anyone discussing it seriously. Pelosi’s you have to pass it to see what it’s in it is the most telling quote in regards to how they think of the american people.

Both sides are childish and need to learn how to balance a household. Contrary to what many people believe, nothing is free, ever.

clem

November 30th, 2012
8:22 am

if that is not enough, remember lloyd blantard, jamie dimon, paulson, geithner, and all the other idiots on wall st. they get bailouts and big bonuses…..need to tax the crud out of them for at least the next 10 years.

Frosty

November 30th, 2012
8:37 am

Unicorns…now there’s a problem!

[...] Go to this article [...]

honested

November 30th, 2012
9:04 am

Unless the tax rates return to normal and the budget sequester occurs, we will endure two more years of an ever dwindling majority of hostage takers in the house.
A quick trip ‘over the cliff’ will allow the House to do it’s job, negotiate real and palatable solutions for our fiscal funding and governmental service needs.

Does it really make sense for a new House to be seated and continue to do nothing? Two years have passed and many returning sophomore House members have no accomplishment but to defend a failed tax policy.

It seems to be a terrible waste of Governance resources.

Rafe Hollister

November 30th, 2012
9:04 am

Notice that in 2008, Johnny said the “President presented a plan”. Since 2009, we are still waiting on the President to submit a realistic budget or a way forward out of this mess. He continues to move the goal posts and campaign for class warfare.

During the election, he harped on a balanced plan and said he would accept cuts of 2/3-1 for revenue raised. He knew he was lying then as he has no desire for cuts of any kind. He wants more revenue to spend. Tax cuts now, spending cuts some time in the future, is what he says now. Just what the economy does not need. Obama bad for the economy, bad for America.

straitroad

November 30th, 2012
9:05 am

Jim,

You could have asked the same question during the presidential campaign. Who would you trust with investing your 401k, Romney or Obama? The “fiscal cliff” is being used to gin up panic. Will it have an affect on the markets? Sure, in the short term, but 401k plans aren’t designed as short term investments.

Don't Tread

November 30th, 2012
9:09 am

2008 presidential election: drug user vs. naval aviator. Drug user wins.
2012 presidential election: drug user vs. businessman. Drug user wins.

Are there any independents who wonder why we’re at this point? See above.

Democrats wouldn’t know if someone “had substance” (in the personal attribute sense) if they tripped over them. (However, they know all about “having substance” in the drug use sense.)

As usual, Democrats want to raise taxes but don’t want to cut spending.

WOW

November 30th, 2012
9:11 am

Neither Obama nor his wife are self-made and they will continue to squander taxpayer dollars on lavish vacations to Spain, Hawaii and record rounds of golf.

I think you have the Obama’s confused with Bush and Romney. Don’t think either one of them made a student loan payment.

Do us all a favor the election is over, he won, GET OVER IT.

WOW

November 30th, 2012
9:11 am

Neither Obama nor his wife are self-made and they will continue to squander taxpayer dollars on lavish vacations to Spain, Hawaii and record rounds of golf.

I think you have the Obama’s confused with Bush and Romney. Don’t think either one of them made a student loan payment.

Do us all a favor the election is over, he won, GET OVER IT.