Dec. 28, 2012, 9:24 a.m. EST
Who’s to blame for fiscal cliff? You are
Commentary: No mandate for action from splintered government
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — It would be a rare person who, in looking at Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell in a room together, would have something positive to say about all five.
It’s not just that partisans will naturally favor their own side. It’s quite plausible to look at everyone gathered for Friday’s White House meeting on how to avert the fiscal cliff and rip into all of them, for tepid leadership, bungled negotiation and simply not getting the job done. Read more on fiscal-cliff developments leading up to Friday’s meeting between Obama and congressional leaders.
But to put the blame on them for allowing a series of enormous tax hikes and drastic spending cuts to go into effect — maybe not for long, one can hope — is to miss the point. Because if you’re looking for someone to blame, hold up the mirror. It’s you.
How so? It goes back to 2010 — and, earlier, to the health-care law. Seniors quite rationally feared an expansion of coverage would eventually lead to a scaling back of existing Medicare coverage. Quite irrationally, many also feared that a law written by the health-insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies would lead to socialistic government control.
And those who swept Obama into power in 2008 were basically unmoved by the Affordable Care Act to show up at the polls two years later, possibly because, as Rep. Pelosi instructed when she was speaker, they would have to wait until 2014 to find out what’s inside.
As a result, a Republican landslide not just in the House, but importantly, in state legislatures occurred in the 2010 elections, just in time for redistricting. Because of that redistricting as well as the typical benefits of incumbency, the House remained firmly in Republican control this year, even with Democratic contenders for House seats nationally taking about a half-million votes more than their rivals, and even as Obama comfortably was re-elected to a second term.
Just how mismatched have the congressional and presidential races become? Take Ohio, where Obama netted just six of the 18 congressional districts despite winning the state by about two percentage points. The second-closest state in the presidential election is basically turned into Oklahoma when it comes to House representation. And that’s the case in most other states, as well.
Regardless of whether Obama, Boehner & Co. are giving their best efforts, this complete mismatch of legislative and executive governance is the root cause of the current crisis. And, by and large, it’s not the folks inside the Beltway who are to blame.
The fault is yours.
— Steve Goldstein , Washington bureau chief