Barack Obama ain't afraid of no stinkin' fiscal cliff. Why should he be? When the rest of us go over the cliff, doomed to pain and oblivion among the soup cans, plastic bags and empty soda-pop bottles at the bottom of the abyss, he'll be soaring over the rooftops as only a tin-pot messiah can.
When the George W. Bush tax cuts expire at midnight on New Year's Eve, with the rest of us singing a tearful adieu to Auld Lang Syne, the president will be popping corks. He'll have his higher taxes. The joke will be on us, but nobody at the bottom of the cliff will be laughing.
Barack Obama's goal is to raise taxes, and how he does that is of small consequence. He is determined not to cut spending. This has become clear enough to all. He will have redeemed FDR's famous mantra — "Tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect" — in a way that Mr. Roosevelt could never have imagined. Mitt Romney's infamous "47 percent," the Americans who get a monthly government check, will balloon toward 100 percent. Cuts, reforms, restraints, disciplines of any kind will be silly notions of the past. Dependency will be enthroned.
Once this is understood, there's no mystery about why the "negotiations" between the Democrats and the Republicans have never amounted to very much. Mr. Obama reads the Nov. 6 election result as a landslide, though 51 percent to 47 percent is far from a landslide. Nevertheless he is bold, and acting as if it were. He, and even a lot of timid and fearful Republicans, never absorbed the home truth that nothing recedes like success.
For now, everything is going the president's way. Mr. Obama's vision of America is one he learned in his community-organizing days. Americans have to give up the idea that America is, in Lincoln's memorable formulation, the exceptional nation, and learn to be miserable in solidarity with both Upper and Lower Slobbovia.
The president's intelligence chiefs have given him the "good news" that by the year 2030, only 18 years from now, the United States will no longer be the world's great superpower. "In terms of the indices of overall power — Gross Domestic Product (GDP), population size, military spending and technological investment — Asia will surpass North America and Europe combined," reports the National Intelligence Council of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. That mouthful of titles and capital letters comprise the president's own intelligence gurus.
"With rapid rise of other countries," the report goes on, "the 'unipolar moment' is over and no country — whether the U.S., China or any other country — will be a hegemonic power. The United States' relative economic decline vis-a-vis the rising states is inevitable. ... "
These are only opinions, of course, but the intelligence agencies are occasionally correct in their estimates and appraisals. But there is in the assessment a noticeable whiff of barely suppressed glee, and a suggestion that this could be the good news the president has been waiting for. Mr. Obama, a happy native of Hawaii, is nevertheless a man of the Third World attitudes and sensibilities inherited by birth, nurtured when he grew up in Indonesia, and it's just these sensibilities that endear him to sordid allies on the left who dream of a world liberated from American example and influence.
Preaching the angry exploitation of the "rich," as he defines "rich," comes naturally to him and the Democratic left. Envy and covetousness are powerful emotions, easily manipulated, and Mr. Obama is a master of manipulation. Demonizing a neighbor in a bigger house who drives a new car is easy work. A new Battleground Poll finds that 60 percent of Americans polled now think raising taxes on households — not individuals but households — making more than $250,000 a year is a good idea. The president has done a splendid job of portraying these taxpayers as big-bellied plutocrats who summer in France, winter in St. Moritz and dine on roast swan.
But nearly 70 percent in the Battleground Poll think raising taxes on small businesses earning more than $250,000 is a bad idea. Republicans have done a lousy job of explaining that many, perhaps most, of the "rich" Americans and these small businesses are one and the same. That's why abusing small businesses is likely to send the country reeling into another recession at the bottom of the cliff. This one won't be George W.'s fault.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.
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