According to my sources here in Vermont (that would be the Burlington Free Press and Vermont Public Radio) 2/3s of the state's congressional delegation believes the country is likely to go over the fiscal cliff. The remaining 1/3 is "hopeful" that this bullet can somehow be dodged.
Senator Bernie Sanders is, predictably, pugnacious and Luciferian in his anticipation of the Fall and views it as liberating. Representative Peter Welch takes a "more in sorrow than anger" view. And Patrick Leahy does the Solomonic routine you would expect from one who was first elected to the Senate in 1974 and has been there ever since. Senator Leahy believes that "there is a new sense of urgency” in Washington when it comes to dealing with this issue and that "We've got to get away from slogans and symbolism and get to substance. And that's going to be difficult."
He gets better lines in those Batman cameos he likes doing.
The views of these three are interesting not for any special insight or prescience they may carry but because they represent deep blue thinking. You would have to go to California to find a less congenial environment for Republicans, conservatives, and any other right side life forms. Senator Sanders finds the Democratic party insufficiently left leaning for his sensibilities and runs as an independent. Vermonters returned him to the Senate a couple of weeks ago with more than 70 percent of the vote.
No Vermont Democrat is in danger of losing his hold on office because he is unwilling to compromise with Republicans. And none is especially troubled by the prospect of the country going over the fiscal cliff. Former governor Howard Dean has said he thinks it would be a good thing.
These hard line views will be in the mix during negotiations in both the lame duck session and when the new Congress is organized. But once the country has gone over the cliff and hits the rocks below, the usual fingers will be pointed at the usual suspects–Republican hard liners, the Tea Party, supply-siders and so forth.
One wonders if it might not be better for fiscal realists to concede the tax increases up front (as some have suggested) and ask the other side if it is willing to spend a little of its political capital on, say, tax reform. Robert Rubin explains why this is very hard. And, of course, raising taxes is very easy. We've done it, after all, many times. But tax reform – as in closing loopholes and generally cleaning up the impenetrable 70,000-plus pages of the code – not so much. Only once, actually, in recent memory, back when that notorious right wing extremist Ronald Reagan was president.
One can predict with fair certainty how Bernie Sanders, Peter Welch, and Patrick Leahy would react to a proposal to phase out the deductibility of mortgage interest and contributions to charity and to count employer-provided health insurance as income. And it would be interesting to see how they'd perform in the role of hard line, no compromise, bitter enders.