Is it bluster? Is it posturing? Or is this the real line in the sand? Tim Geithner was sent out to do the Full Ginsberg this morning for part number 183 in the media’s 2,394 parts series on the fiscal cliff. There was one repeating theme, highlighted below in this video clip from an interview with Candy Crowley. Regardless of the previous suggestions from some Democratic spokespersons about flexibility and finding revenues in whichever way they can be obtained, Geithner was laying out a Great Wall of China type barricade in the negotiations. I’ve extracted a short transcript of the crucial portion with the video following.
Candy Crowley: But they’ve [the Republicans] said no increase in rates.
Tim Geithner: But there’s going to be… they know this. Look. There’s not going to be an agreement without rates going up.
CC: So you’ll go off the fiscal cliff if the Republicans say, ‘Sorry, no way are we going to raise rates for, on the wealthy.’ You guys are willing to go off the cliff.
TG: If Republicans are not willing to let rates go back up, and we think they should go back to the Clinton levels, a time when the American economy was doing extraordinarily well, then there will not be an agreement.
So there you have it. No deal without the tax rates going up, at least on the wealthiest Americans. And given who is doing the talking here and how widely he’s broadcasting the message, it would be pretty difficult to walk that one back. Of course, it’s the one poison pill which is probably more of a non-starter with the portions of Boehner’s caucus he has to sell on a deal than anything else.
Back on November 17th I wrote the following:
If [Obama] takes a very hard line and forces the showdown to a collapse in discussions, several potentially positive (for him) results are baked into the cake. He can claim that Republicans refused a “balanced approach” and it’s their fault that everyone’s taxes went up. He then has the Democrats force a vote on a bill to only lower taxes on the middle class and the poor and just dares the GOP to vote against it. (They won’t.) At this point he has the tax / revenue increase he promised without giving up a single thing. Now the negotiations start anew to talk about “spending cuts” but the GOP’s major bargaining chip is gone.
At the time I wrote that I received a number of responses saying I was “crazy.” Just this morning I watched Bob Scheifer asking a series of guests if the parties involved in the negotiations could “really be that stupid.” Everyone seems to be shying away from the possibility that there won’t be an eleventh hour deal.
Does it still sound crazy?