I have been thinking a good amount about the “Let It Burn” (LIB) strategy that has become rather popular among conservatives regarding the Fiscal Cliff (over which we will dive if a deal isn’t reached within the next 6 days). Most should be familiar with LIB, which basically calls for the Republican-controlled House to sit back and let President Obama and the Democrats get everything they want in the Fiscal Cliff negotiations (i.e., higher taxes and increased spending), while simply voting “Present” – not endorsing nor opposing the Democrat agenda. Some have also extended this approach to the debt ceiling as well, allowing for an unlimited increase in the nation’s ability to accrue debt.
The thinking is that giving the Democrats everything they want will lead to a massive recession and crushing debt that would be so obvious that voters would have no choice but blame the party that proposed the policies that led to the disaster. At that point, conservatives could begin to rebuild the country with proven policies that work in providing national prosperity. Philosophically, I rather like the idea in a perfect world. However, this is not a perfect world: the mainstream media is a more than willing accomplice to the Democrat Party, and it’s agenda to crush the Republican Brand. If the country does go “cliff-diving”, there is no doubt that the media will direct the blame squarely to the Republicans, who caved on taxes and let the rates go up on everyone at the expense of protecting millionaires (see “Plan B”).
However, I see another issue with the LIB impulse. The results would seem to feed right into the Cloward-Piven Strategy, which some are suggesting Obama has been implementing. In a nutshell, this strategy calls for overloading the already-strained entitlement programs to cause a crushing debt which would lead to a rebuilding of the system (sound familiar) with a national guaranteed income. Without debating Cloward-Piven, it seems that the Let It Burn strategy would end up promoting the same ends. Proponents of LIB suggest that once the economy crashes and burns, it can be rebuilt with small government, free market principles. However, this assumes that the current nation of low information voters would correctly attribute blame to the Democrats, and thus vote for Republicans in 2014 and 2016 in order to correct the mess.
Maybe I’m a pessimist, but I just don’t see that happening. As I mentioned above, the media will be all too willing to blame Republicans at every opportunity; this will be all that the low information voter will hear – from snippets on the nightly news, to sound bites from David Letterman, or the liberal morning radio hosts on their way to work (I can hear the drum beat now about how the GOP caved on taxes, and stood by while the rates went up on everyone). Thus, I see the effects not as wins in 2014 (especially) and 2016, but rather the further damage and running away from anything Republican by the average voter.
In the meantime, Obama and the Democrats will gain more leverage to pass their agenda, no doubt to start with tax cuts for the middle class (now the Democrats can be the party of tax cuts while painting the Republicans as tax-raisers). What’s worse, if the country does fall into recession, with more and more people out of work and swelling the welfare, unemployment, food stamp, and disability rolls, Obama can use that to “rebuild” with a federal strategy in the name of income fairness, much in the same way he “rebuilt” the health insurance industry with Obamacare. Will he achieve the stated goal of Cloward-Piven? Despite my pessimism, I doubt it; however, one thing is for sure: any rebuilding will be guided by leftists, not conservatives.
No thank you. Again, while philosophically I understand the attraction to letting it burn and have the Democrats wallow in their failures, this is the real word; in the real world, that’s not happening. Also, I prefer to have my elected officials fight for what is the right thing to do for the United States, not just stand aside and let it burn. As Rick Moran observes:
Would that political parties could afford such childlike purity. But despite its irrationality — a political party shouldn’t set out to deliberately create conditions for a crushing defeat — there is an overriding principle to consider as well: self-preservation. What would a full-monty cave-in on taxes do to the Republican Party, especially if it comes with no guaranteed cuts in entitlements?
Allahpundit has some insights regarding the negotiations based on the “Plan B” fallout, as well as the what a deal from the Democrats may look like. Is it enough to send us over the cliff? He sure seems to think so:
When Plan B failed, so did his leverage on that point. Now the White House knows that the final bill, if it passes before December 31, will only pass with Democratic votes, which means it’ll have to be more liberal than Plan B. Bailing on Boehner thus means more small businesses will feel the crunch next year unless centrist Republicans stick with the rest of the caucus right now and refuse to pass Obama’s plan if he doesn’t raise the income cut-off from $250,000. Somewhere between that number and $1 million lies the number that’s going to get a deal done. Obama already proposed making the cut-off $400,000, so presumably he’ll end up back at that number (or higher) unless there’s a complete breakdown in Republican discipline and Obama/Reid/Pelosi somehow manage to peel off 30 GOP votes for the $250,000 mark. Anyone feel confident that that won’t happen with the December 31 deadline bearing down? Bear these new numbers from Gallup in mind when making your prediction:
Per CNN, Democrats figure — wisely — that their best chance to get O’s plan through the House is to time it so that the bill ends up there on December 30 or 31, when political pressure on the GOP will be at its zenith. Which makes me wonder: Will Boehner try to block the bill or will he let it come to the floor? The vote for the next Speaker happens just a few days later, on January 3; if he allows Democrats to pass a bill with token Republican help that hikes taxes on everyone who makes $250,000 or more, there may be enough conservative opposition to end his Speakership. It’s in his own political interest at this point, then, to go over the cliff, let the tax hikes take effect across the board, and then let the House vote on cutting the “new,” higher tax rates for earners below $250,000. So we’re going over the cliff, I guess.
At this point, going over the cliff may be unavoidable. However, if we do, and tax rates are hiked for everyone (again, I’m not philosophically opposed to this if the Dems would be held accountable), I want the House Republicans to go down fighting by proposing a reasonable offer, or just outright voting “No” on principle; not to stand aside and just let it happen.