The fiscal cliff battle as a sign of a covert civil war

The raging row over the fiscal cliff has shown that any compromise is likely to be rebuked by the Republican majority in Congress. Only a humiliating White House full surrender would meet its intense yearning for taking a ferocious revenge on Mr Obama. The scathing defeat conservatism suffered in the recent presidential election still hurts.

On face value, the odds would favour a middle of the road agreement. Observers across the board acknowledge that combining expenditure cuts with higher taxes for the affluent minority stands as the only sensible way for curbing the ramping deficit and scaling down the huge debt pile. The dose these medicines are to be administered is open to discussion. But the devastating effect on the US economy that failure to reach consensus will undoubtedly entail, would in normal circumstances lead to bipartisan assent.

Yet, most Republicans are ready to dig in their heels even if the country heads for utter disarray. They act as obdurate and dogmatic preachers of a new faith that refuses any concession on the core objective of making life miserable for liberals, women and non-white minorities that cast a vote enabling an evil and un-American President to be re-elected. Even if the battle is fought with paper bullets, it is dangerously close to a civil war.

Sticking to such uncharitable principles, no matter the prize to be paid by citizens, shows how deeply loathing and intransigence is embedded in the Republican party ranks. Being confined to opposition, for a longer period than fair democratic balance would warrant, doesn’t deter the doomsday prophets. The mutiny on board the Republican House Speaker faced in his attempt to bridge the gap openly displays the deep division within the G.O.P. Yet, this internal rift stands as little comfort to a country desperately waiting for a solution.

The automatic lifting of the tax rebates benefiting the less well-off and the middle classes, entering into force from January the 1, could be avoided should a truce be reached over the next year. But the debt limit only allows a couple of months before daunting budget cuts are bound to be implemented. The FED Chairman has promptly promised to make full use of its formidable weaponry for alleviating the severe downturn pressure a sudden 5% drop in overall demand would trigger. But a sweeping slash in public expenditure is likely to inflict extensive damage, no matter the amount of extra liquidity being pumped.

The US lawmakers only have a few weeks for defusing this time-bomb. Unless moderate Republicans join forces with Democrats in a last-ditch bid to avoid a crash landing, we will be confronted with a gloomy worldwide scenario.

About the Author

JP Marin Arrese
Juan Pedro Marín Arrese is a Madrid-based economic analyst and observer. He regularly publishes articles in the Spanish leading financial newspaper 'Expansión'.

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