Who is trying to push the United States off the "fiscal cliff"? Many left-wing commentators predictably have placed the blame squarely on the Republicans. Yet a much stronger case can be made that the fault lies with President Obama.
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner announced an astonishing proposal last week that called for a $1.6 trillion increase in taxes. This particular figure is double what most GOP politicians likely would be willing to accept when push comes to shove. If the GOP is still having trouble accepting roughly 50 percent of that amount, how on earth does Mr. Obama expect it ever to agree to this staggering new number?
Incredibly, it doesn't stop there. Mr. Obama wants to increase the top income tax rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent -- exactly what it was during Bill Clinton's presidency. In other words, it's a good ol' "soak the rich" campaign from a tax-and-spend liberal sitting in the Oval Office. There also reportedly will be $200 billion spent on so-called "economic growth" measures (to pay, ultimately, for Mr. Obama's various spending increases over the next four years, no doubt) and $50 billion on infrastructure projects that likely will never see the light of day.
Mr. Obama also has suggested about $400 billion in cuts to health programs. Big deal. Early estimates for the total cost of implementing Obamacare, the president's massive state-run health care plan, are in the neighborhood of $1 trillion. That's why the GOP asked for a total of $600 billion in health savings this week -- to offset more of these fiscally imprudent White House proposals.
There also reportedly will be $800 billion in savings from winding down the Iraq and Afghanistan missions. While this political decision obviously will curry favor with the anti-war contingent, it also will keep the United States less safe in violent regions in the world. For those of us who support our brave men and women in uniform, it serves as yet another example of this president being soft on terrorism.
Certainly, neither Democrats nor Republicans have acted perfectly during these important economic discussions. When you add everything together, the president clearly is trying to heave the U.S. over the cliff in more ways than one.
Republican House Speaker John A. Boehner recently said, "The Democrats have yet to get serious about real spending cuts. Jobs are on the line, the American economy is on the line, and this is a moment for adult leadership." He's right. To paraphrase an old saying, the Democratic inmates are running the White House asylum.
There are better ways to take control of the American economy and prevent a tumble over the fiscal cliff. Instead of promoting a tax increase on the wealthy, Mr. Obama should be looking at ways to decrease the size of government as well as the tax burden on all American individuals and corporations. When people have more incentives to earn larger amounts of take-home pay, a country's economic engine will work harder, produce at a higher level, and substantially increase profit margins. It's a straightforward principle of free-market economics and one that the United States successfully followed for many generations.
Alas, Mr. Obama has no interest in this historical financial model. Rather, the president is more content to play games of class warfare as well as Robin Hood-style income redistribution.
That's why he is targeting specific income groups -- including, believe it or not, some of the same people who gave him political and financial support the past two presidential elections. His actions will increase the size of government, meaning the state will trample continually on private enterprise and freedom of choice for all Americans. He's setting up the economy for an even bigger financial disaster, which could lead to, in U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke's words, a "substantial threat" to economic recovery.
A few days ago, Mr. Obama claimed to be worried about the prospects of a "Scrooge Christmas" if the Republicans wouldn't help him avoid the fiscal cliff. Maybe a short visit from the Ghosts of the Economic Past, Present and Future would show him who really has had the greater hand in pushing Americans down this path to financial ruin.
Michael Taube is a former speechwriter for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a columnist with The Washington Times.