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KRAUTHAMMER: Is Obama ready to jump off the fiscal cliff?

  • (LISA BENSON / Washington Post Writers Group)

Why are Republicans playing the Democrats' game that the fiscal clif is all about taxation? House Speaker John Boehner already made the pre-emptive concession of agreeing to raise revenues. But the insistence on doing so by eliminating deductions without raising marginal rates is now the subject of fierce Republican infighting.

Where is the other part of President Barack Obama's vaunted “balanced approach”? Where are the spending cuts, both discretionary and entitlement: Medicare, Medicaid and now Obamacare (the health care trio) and Social Security?

Social Security is the easiest to solve. So you get a sense of the Democrats' inclination to reform entitlements when Dick Durbin, the Senate Democrats' No. 2, says Social Security is off the table because it “does not add a penny to our deficit.”

This is absurd. In 2012, Social Security adds $165 billion to the deficit. Democrats pretend that Social Security is covered through 2033 by its trust fund. Except that the trust fund is a fiction, a mere “bookkeeping” device, as the OMB itself has written. The trust fund's IOUs “do not consist of real economic assets that can be drawn down in the future to fund benefits.” Future benefits “will have to be financed by raising taxes, borrowing from the public, or reducing benefits or other expenditures.”

And draining the Treasury, as 10,000 baby boomers retire every day. Yet that's off the table. And on Wednesday, the president threw down the gauntlet by demanding tax hikes now — with spending cuts to come next year. Meaning, until after Republicans have fallen on their swords, given up the tax issue and forfeited their political leverage.

Ronald Reagan once fell for a “tax now, cut later” deal that he later deeply regretted. Dems got the tax; he never got the cuts. Obama's audacious new gambit is not a serious proposal to solve our fiscal problems. It's a raw partisan maneuver meant to neuter the Republicans by getting them to cave on their signature issue as the hold-the-line party on taxes.

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