A growing bloc of emboldened liberals say they’re not afraid to watch defense spending get gouged and taxes go up on every American if a budget deal doesn’t satisfy their priorities.
Here’s what these progressives fear: an agreement that keeps lower tax rates for the wealthy, hits the social safety net with unpalatable cuts and leaves Pentagon spending unscathed. In other words, they’d rather walk the country off the cliff than watch President Barack Obama cave on long-held liberal priorities.
“If the Republicans can’t see their way to significant additional revenues targeted toward the people who are best off and targeted toward passive income and other things like that, then we’re better off going over the cliff and readdressing this with a better Congress in January,” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said. “And we would have plenty of time to fix it.”
Bolstering the Democrats’ strategy is the belief that the “fiscal cliff” is actually shaped more like a “slope” where the economic effects will be felt gradually, not immediately. That theory gives Congress some time at the beginning of 2013 to set tax rates and configure budget cuts in a different political environment and with a new class of lawmakers.
But underlying the tough talk is also a sense of liberal angst — the left feels like it was burned by the last extension of the Bush tax rates and didn’t get much of what it wanted in the 2011 debt-limit deal.