This morning, we have a true insight into why this country's fiscal standing is so perilous: because of the GOP. News late last night seemed to suggest that – perhaps reflecting a new sense of responsibility and perspective after Newtown – the president went a long way to accommodate the far right. The deal we're hearing about would have put the Clinton tax rates back only for those earning over $400,000, leave defense fat and happy, drop the payroll tax cut and adjust inflation estimates to reduce increases in social security benefits over time. Obama gets a mini-stimulus, a crimp on deductions for the very rich, extension of unemployment insurance and a framework for serious tax and entitlement reform next year. The two sides were slowly coming together, as they should.
Now, this morning, Boehner faces his gerry-mandered House majority and seems to throw the latest deal out of the window. Maybe it's because he needs to start somewhere with these fanatics. Maybe he knows he can't sell the current deal to his caucus and so is angling for the Speaker's election January 3. But maybe this is it. Even now, even after an election thumping, even in the face of huge majorities of the public, even facing another unnecessary fiscal crisis, even in the sobering atmosphere tragically created by Newtown, they are prepared to walk away from any sizable increase in the rates for the very rich.
This party is a threat to democratic discourse and to fiscal sanity. Their ideological mania knows no prudential restraint at all.
(Chart: the president's approval ratings since September 2012 via Pollster, with heightened sensitivity.)