Saturday morning on MSNBC’s “Up with Chris Hayes,” host Chris Hayes opened the show with a segment titled “Lessons from the Fiscal Cliff.” In it, he talked about the fact that the fiscal cliff was a completely made-up crisis, political brinksmanship that was less a cliff than what he called a “fiscal curb.”
“This week, the president signed the American Tax Relief Act, which restores Clinton-era tax rates for individuals with incomes above $400,000, extends unemployment insurance for a year and postpones massive budget cuts for two months, setting up yet another countdown for yet another induced crisis.”
The first lesson we learned, Hayes said, was “It was not a cliff.”
On the show, he said, he and his guests have tried to limit their use of the phrase “fiscal cliff” because it conveyed a false sense of the urgency of the situation. Had Congress botched the deal, he said, the nation would not find itself lying dead and lifeless at the foot of a cliff.
Congress did miss the deadline, though, and rather than falling to our death, he said, the country hung suspended in the air “Wile E. Coyote-like” while they wrangled a compromise.
“In other words, the deadline wasn’t a real deadline,” he said, “and blowing through it did not matter,” making the fiscal cliff more of a “fiscal curb.”
But if that was the case all along, why not wait until the next (more progressive) Congress gets sworn in?
Which leads us to Lesson 2: “No one cares about the deficit.”
What we found out here, Hayes said, is that the people in Washington who most claim to care about the deficit really do not care at all. All of their hand-wringing and moralistic scolding about the national debt is just more mummery, a kabuki show designed to rack up political points.
“All of those people voted for a deal that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, adds $3.9 trillion to the deficit over the next decade,” said Hayes.
Lesson Number 3, he said, is: “Budget battles are about power, not about ideology.”
“The main narrative of this battle was that the ideologically extreme tea party Republican caucus forcing the country over the fiscal cliff and refusing to, in the words of Starbucks cups everywhere, ‘Come together’ to solve the country’s problems,” Hayes continued.
But when you look at the actual deal and the fact that Republicans argued with measure after measure aimed at bringing down the debt, no actual ideological contours emerge with regards to what they’re asking for. In fact, the main motivating force of Republican obstructionism to the White House’s proposals appears to be the exercise of power, not of ideals.
Watch the segment, embedded via MSNBC, below: