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Mr. Boehner has made significant concessions in the past week or so in negotiations, and so has the president. Mr. Obama gave up his long-standing demand to raise the top tax rate to nearly 40 percent for people who earn more than $250,000 a year, limiting it to households earning more than $400,000.

Mr. Boehner held fast to his opposition to all tax-rate hikes that would hit small-business employers and investors but agreed to applying the highest rate to those earning more than $1 million. In fact, existing tax deductions and exemptions would bring the effective rate well below that top level for many, if not most, millionaires anyway.

The White House also gave in to Mr. Boehner’s key demand on entitlements, allowing a less generous inflation formula on cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security benefits, and agreed to end the 2 percent payroll tax cut that affects virtually every worker in the country.

In the final analysis, Mr. Boehner was sending a signal that House Republicans would not be bullied into accepting Mr. Obama’s higher taxes when the economy was limping at a less than 2 percent average annual rate that was expected to decline in the fourth quarter.

Plan B not only would avoid sending the country tumbling over the fiscal cliff that economists say will drive the economy back into a recession, it also would erase the pervasive uncertainty that has retarded economic growth during the last four years.

Businesses would know that their tax rates would not change next year, emboldening them to make investments and plant-expansion plans that have been on hold throughout Mr. Obama’s first term.

It also would buy needed time for Congress to revise the difficult revenue reform plans pushed by Republicans to cleanse the tax code of inefficient special-interest tax loopholes and other corporate-welfare provisions. Tax reform will not only raise tax revenues, reducing the deficit, it will spur stronger economic growth — the pivotal fiscal ingredient that has long been missing from this debate.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.