November 29, 2012

COMMENTARY: How Obama benefits from a do-nothing Washington

Ed Rogers

Every lobbyist in Washington knows that whoever can advocate that the government do nothing or defer a matter until later has the advantage.

Keep this in mind as the negotiations for avoiding the "fiscal cliff" unfold, especially since "do nothing" has a powerful ally in Congress.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is the unapologetic leader of the do-nothing forces, and as the incoming chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, she is in a good position to stop any action.

The liberals have valid reasons for wanting the tax increases and the automatic cuts to defense spending to proceed unabated. The recession and additional dependency that would follow would produce a society that is more to their liking anyway.

As an added bonus for Democrats, a Pew poll found that 53 percent of Americans would blame the Republicans in Congress if the two sides cannot reach an agreement, while only 29 percent would blame the president. Republican leaders haven't convinced even the rank and file of their own party that their leaders in Washington aren't the problem.

Anecdotally, in talking to people from around the country over the Thanksgiving holiday, I did not get a sense of worry or urgency about the fiscal cliff. Informed Republican regulars mostly shrug at the idea of their taxes going up. They are deflated by the election results and appear ready to accept what they think is inevitable.

If we cave on taxes and the debate becomes consumed by what budget cuts the Republicans want to make and the programs the Democrats want to defend, we lose politically and no good policy is created. So far, the focus of the discussion in the media is mostly about Republicans and taxes, not about entitlements and spending restraint.

An unalarmed public, a wounded GOP, a media obsessed with Republicans and taxes, and the Democrats sitting in the favored position of "winning" if Washington does nothing all combine to give the president and his team a big advantage.

Ed Rogers is a co-host of The Insiders blog, offering commentary from a Republican perspective on Election 2012. He is also chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with Haley Barbour in 1991. This column was distributed by The Washington Post, where it first appeared.

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