Fiscal cliff: What would Mrs Lincoln say to John Boehner?

US President Barack Obama visits a toy maker in Hatfield, Pennsylvania 30 November 2012 Barack Obama has said he would not accept any deal that extends tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans

The Republicans' rather huffy letter to US President Barack Obama made me think of a glorious moment in Stephen Spielberg's Lincoln.

The letter, signed by House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, among others, says there has been a "status quo" election "in which both you and the Republican majority in the House were re-elected".

They are claiming that this means the American people expect both the victors of the recent election to "come together on a fair middle ground".

It is reasonable to assume the White House see things rather more like Mrs Lincoln.

Her moment occurs at a White House reception when the president's wife holds up a long reception line to give Thaddeus Stephens, a Republican leader in the House of Representatives, an almighty ear-bashing.

I cannot remember the exact words, but the gist of it is: "My husband is loved by the people, known to the people, he's just been re-elected, and you are nobody - now just back off."


Mr Obama is betting that most Americans will feel the re-election of the president carries more moral weight than the re-election of the House.

He has been on Twitter repeating his demand for tax rises for the rich, opposition to deep cuts in education budgets, and so on.

Everything he has done has been about political positioning, not serious negotiating.

That has further outraged the prickly Republicans, who write of their shock that when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner went to see them he proposed a plan that was in their view "neither balanced nor realistic".

So, they have countered by backing a plan - already passed by the House - to cut healthcare for the future elderly and food stamps for the poor.

They demand a response and serious negotiation. Mr Obama, a more aggressive president than in his first term, is manoeuvring them where he wants them, by getting under their skin.

He is claiming the public label of the man who wants tax cuts for everybody, forcing them to champion deep spending cuts. This is not yet about doing a deal - it is about defining how a deal is seen, when it is done.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Such a superficial analysis. Obama has had more revenue than any President in history. He has spent 100% of that PLUS $5 Trillion in more debt. No tax increase in any scenario can cover the $1Trillion annual deficit. EVERY program needs to be cut by 50% at least or eliminated. Most is pure waste anyway -- like "education" mentioned in the article.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    10.gadfly55. Correction: omission of 200 in 10000, consequently, 2000 in 100000, 20000 in one million, 200,000 in 10million, and 2million in 100 million, or 6 million in 300 million.This is 2% of population There were over 1.7million households with income over $250,000 in 2005. A little bit more from these people will help everyone else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    10. gadfly55 ~ the taxing thing is ho hum, perhaps 'interest' would be better focused on where the wealth came from and what it does, besides indulge superiority complexes.

    The pursuit of wealth can pehaps be a tad overdone.

    It is neat to avenge Boston after all these years :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    The Democratic president gets reelected, the Democrats gain seats in the Senate, the Democrats gain seats in the House, and the GOP calls it a draw? While the GOP can take heart in winning a majority in the House due to their skills at redistricting, they also lost in total votes cast for all the House races. In effect, with the right redistricting, the Democrats could have won the House too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    @purple, 2%, is 2 in 100. or 20 in 1000, or 200 in 100,000, or 2000 in 1 million, or 20000 in 10 million or 200,000 in 100 million or 600,000 in the United States, approximately. Six hundred thousands. See them lined up. 600 lines of 1000 people, that's takes alot of space for that parade. But they own what is worth owning and pays them dividends and capital gains, and royalties. TAX THEM more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    It's all about 2%. That is two people in every thousand........ ;)

    We never know when we are well off or have been lucky, let alone appreciate it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    "a start"
    Not really

    We need 'banking & finance', and we need 'government workers'

    To find out which of us , or what proportions in different sectors, are redundant or actually counter-productive, we need to 'show the door', NOT for escape from some mob, 'right or left', crying 'non-essential', but the door to a better job, equally paid

    Society needs Equal Partnership, conscience

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    ref #6
    Have you a care, an idea, for solution?

    Elected 'representatives' have failed: 'corrupted'?
    _ Boehener gave a counteroffer why is the President refusing to negoiate. Taxes alone won't work. I'd like to see nonessential govt workers take a major 50% pay cut as they are overpaid. How about that for a start?

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    MK @2
    You re-state 'the problem' of deadlock

    Have you a care, an idea, for solution?

    Elected 'representatives' have failed: 'corrupted'?

    Now surely time for 'random representatives' - a Grand Jury of citizens - to listen to all arguments, to define and address 'the real problem(s)'

    It is the People - of all persuasions - who actually need to 'work together'

    All need to know: "On what basis?"

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    It seems Obama may be prepared to embrace his role as "Educator in Chief". Last week's allusion to Scrooge could provide a rich vein toward that end, and it's telling that Republicans do object to his outreach so. It reminds me, "People learn. Sometimes they learn just in time." -- let's hope so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    One way or another, it will be seen that the tax rate on the those with incomes over $250,000 is going up. There is no backing off that fact. It will be done and be seen to be done. The Republicans are the tools of the ultra-rich, and are being seen for what they are. The debate between Romney and the President was clear on this issue. The President has won a mandate for this policy. NOW.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    He is a more aggresive president now because he holds all the cards. If they go over the cliff everyones taxes go up, and the Republicans shoulder the blame. The very next day he could put forward legislation cutting taxes for the middle class - what are the Republicans going to do, block it? He will get his tax increase one way and there is nothing the GOP can do about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Well Boehner has a point. BTW you might point out the Republican presented a plan with cuts something Obama requested.

    Obama also claimed during the campaign he would work with Republicans
    Of course some of us knew better. But we are also smart enough to vote for Romney too bad the majority did not vote the issues

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    To cut through "status quo"

    Only decisive Presidential action - with respect to a declared National Emergency - can now save the US from domestic social & economic chaos

    Urgent survey is needed, for specific authority, to confirm the mandate suggested by Obama's re-election

    If still doubt, a large jury must be pressed, to hear 'all of the arguments', for & against a 'progressive' tax settlement


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