Obama risks repeating his first-term mistake

It looks as if the White House is trying to repeat its mistake all over again. For the past 18 months, Obama has insisted a “balanced approach” is necessary to deal with trillion dollar deficits. That was shorthand for raising taxes on the top 2% of taxpayers in exchange for meaningful spending cuts and other reforms. Republicans led by Speaker John Boehner agreed to raising taxes for the wealthy, albeit by closing out exemptions for the well-to-do. But by late last week, some Republicans were softening on higher rates as well.

That was until the GOP learned Obama is unable to take yes for an answer. On Friday, via an offer made by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Obama redefined “balanced approach” to mean big tax rate hikes on the top 2% and even more spending. If that’s not a big enough thumb in the eye, he’s also demanding Congress permanently empower him to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling. As moderate columnist David Brooks noted, Obama’s greediness pushed the GOP away from compromise and back into war footing. It’s like the stimulus all over again.

Even if Obama wins this fight (and he might), he will pay the price of another four years of acrimony, not to mention bad policy. Given that rumors of Obama’s desire for bipartisanship have always been exaggerated, he might be fine with that.