It is never acceptable for elected officials to put partisan politics and special-interest pledges ahead of their country. But when the stakes are great, as they are with the fiscal cliff negotiations, it is reprehensible.
People who talk about the political benefits of heading off the cliff need to have their heads examined. The blunt ax of massive spending cuts, along with huge across-the-board tax increases, would be irresponsible, possibly triggering another recession. It’s offensive for some Democrats and Republicans to suggest their party could “win” under this scenario, since the country and the American people would be sure losers.
Both parties say they want a deal. The key question is whether they will resist their respective wings, special-interest pressures and short-term political considerations to achieve one.
In the past, conservative Republicans have presented obstacles to a solution by insisting that tax increases be off the table. That was no more tenable than liberal Democrats insisting that social insurance programs not be addressed.
Since the election, many conservatives have become more flexible on revenue, while many liberals have become less flexible on social insurance reform. Yet both are needed for any fiscal agreement to be credible and effective.