So both Boehner and Obama have done their post election photo ops. They have spelled out their positions on the looming fiscal cliff. No surprises at all. The Republicans are saying “No” to any increases in tax rates while Obama has said he will outright veto any bill that is presented to him that does not raise taxes on rich folks.
I was surprised by the reaction in the press to the positions set forth by these two. The headlines make it seem like B&O are ready to work together, and achieve the necessary compromises to avoid falling off a cliff. I think the press has it wrong. We’re headed into a bitter fight; in part, because the President has drawn a very dangerous line in the sand.
The President has said that the recent election has shown that the majority of American’s want the rich to pay more in taxes. What is the President insisting on? Is he pushing for something that would make a difference? I don’t think so. More importantly, the Congressional Budget Office does not agree with the President’s position.
The CBO put out a report on this topic last week. It spelled out the consequences of an increase in the tax rate for those making over $250,000 (versus reversing all of the Bush tax cuts). It does not add up to much.
The tax that Obama wants to increase will result in a lousy $42Bn in 2013 and $38Bn in 2014 according to the CBO. That’s peanuts to a government that spends $3.6T a year. The tax increase that Obama is insisting on comes to three days of spending.
No tax increase comes without a cost. The CBO evaluated the implications of raising the taxes on those making $250k and up. The consequences to both GDP and jobs:
Raising high end taxes will reduce GDP growth by .1% and will result in 200,000 less workers finding jobs. It will do these bad things by the 4th Q of 2013. Some context for these numbers:
The .1% drop in GDP translates to $16Bn less growth in 2013. On average, the government takes in about 20% of GDP, so the drop in GDP relating to the tax increase will translate into a shortfall in revenue of $3.2Bn.
The tax increase mandated by the President will translate into 200,000 less jobs for 2013. If the people who did not find work as a result were forced to stay on unemployment it would cost the government $4.6Bn.
So Obama’s “must have” tax increase will generate $42Bn in revenue, but it will cost ~$8Bn. The Obama's plan is to decrease the deficit by about $34Bn in 2012, and by less than that in future years. These numbers are beyond chump change. It comes to 0.9% of total spending and just 3.0% of the deficit. It does not move the needle at all.
My conclusion is that we are in for a fight. Talk of compromise and “coming together for the good of the country” is just noise. The President is insisting on a tax increase that will not achieve anything of substance. Obama has drawn a very visible line in the sand over this issue. I can’t imagine how the House Republicans will go along with it. The President’s opening position on how to work through the fiscal cliff is about politics, not economic substance.
Get ready for a failure in these negotiations. We are going to fall off of that cliff in 53 days!