It was President Obama, not Republicans, who demanded automatic spending cuts — the so-called “fiscal cliff” — in order to force both parties to accept brutal austerity, writes William K. Black (the S&L bank regulator and prosecutor). In a column entitled “Obama should listen to Obama,” Black details how Obama repeatedly demanded an automatic trigger in the 2011 budget deal, which would kick in at the end of 2012.
Jumping off from Obama’s statement a few weeks ago, that “Now is not the time for more self-inflicted wounds, certainly not coming from Washington,” Black writes: “Austerity is the weapon that is about to inflict the self-inflicted wounds on our nation. The fiscal cliff is the ammunition about to be used to inflict austerity on the nation. One of the wounds is a recession, which would increase unemployment and the federal budget deficit. The other terrible wounds are cuts to social programs and the safety net that would add greatly to human misery.” He goes on:
“Reporters need to ask Obama two series of questions. Who insisted on creating the fiscal cliff, threatened Republicans in Fall 2011 when they wanted to eliminate or reduce it, and after the ‘failure’ of the November 2011 ‘super committee’ to reach a deal to inflict even greater austerity on the nation, made a veto threat to block a Republican proposal to eliminate or delay the fiscal cliff? The answer is: Obama. The White House wanted a ‘trigger’ that would automatically raise taxes on the wealthy and cut health spending, an idea the Republicans opposed. Obama’s ‘trigger’ became the ‘fiscal cliff.’ I have explained how he then kept the ‘fiscal cliff’ alive by blocking Republican efforts to eliminate or delay it.”
Black refers back to an earlier, Dec. 20 article, where he had pointed out that it was Tim Geithner and Bill Daley, two strong proponents of austerity, who advised Obama when he took the lead in crafting austerity. In this earlier article, Black identified five times during 2011 when Obama insisted on the “fiscal cliff” automatic spending cuts, in order to inflict austerity on the American people for the next decade: (1) The July 2011 $4 trillion austerity agreement with Boehner. (2) Creating of the fiscal cliff austerity deal in August around the debt ceiling. (3) Creation of the “super committee” to inflict massive spending cuts. (4) During “super committee” negotiations, Obama blocked any effort to delay or eliminate the fiscal cliff, by insisting that the automatic sequester provisions remain. Here Black adds: “Obama urged the infliction of severe austerity through cuts in the safety net, massive cuts in social programs, and deliberately created and used the fiscal cliff’s self-destructive austerity threat to extort these betrayals of the American people. His surrogates (Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson — the co-chairs of Obama’s austerity commission) pushed the super committee to ‘go big’ and inflict $4 trillion in austerity.” (5) When the “super committee” could not reach an agreement, Obama threatened on Nov. 21, 2001, to veto any effort to get rid of the “fiscal cliff” automatic spending cuts.
Much of this, Black points out, was aimed at progressive Democrats, to extort from them support for severe cuts in social programs and the safety net, out of fear of even more drastic cuts if the automatic cuts kicked in.
Black’s careful recounting of the Obama’s direct and personal role in demanding and creating the “fiscal cliff’s” automatic spending cuts and sequestration, should eliminate for once and for all any fiction that Killer Obama has been forced into this “crisis” by the Republicans. It is strictly of his own making.