President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner have both suggested a compromise may be possible over the looming so-called fiscal cliff.
The president declared last week that he was not "wedded to every detail" of his tax and spending plans. Boehner told reporters, "I don't want to box myself in, and I don't want to box anyone else in....We all understand the president won re-election, we won re-election, we're in an interesting position and we'll have to figure out the best way to get through all this."
Ralph Nader, the famed onsumer advocate and past presidential candidate, says now is the time for President Obama to push his agenda even more forcefully against congressional Republicans, with whom he had multiple policy disagreements in his first term. He believes the president, who won re-election last week over GOP challenger Mitt Romney, has to "stand firm" against the Republicans now that he's secured four more years in the White House.
"If he doesn't compromise before he has to compromise, the way he has in the past ... if he stands firm, the big business lobbyists will basically tell the Republicans they've got to come to the table," Nader says.
But Nader isn't particularly worried about the much-discussed fiscal cliff — the combination of government spending cuts and tax expirations that could take effect at the start of 2013 without legislators acting to head it off.
"The real question will be what is going to be cut in terms of public services, whether the military budget is going to be cut ... and of course the whole issue of taxation," he says. "Corporations have never been taxed lower in effective rates, after the loopholes, in dozens and dozens of years."
As for personal income taxes, Nader doesn't seem inclined to view Obama as wanting to hike taxes on richer Americans, something that has been the subject of considerable debate for months.
"It's just restoring the taxes on the wealthy that occurred before [President George W. Bush] cut them," he says.
Obama could also aim to raise government revenue by reforming the tax code, Nader says.
"It could be a common ground where the Republicans will agree to get rid of some sizable deductions, exclusions and escape hatches," he says. "That would not increase rates, but it would increase revenue. And so maybe Obama is going to let the Republicans save face on the rate issue if they will get rid of some of these what are called loopholes."
As for entitlement reform, something the GOP has repeatedly pushed, Nader says that changes to Medicare and Social Security could be implemented, but that they're not the most important area for Washington to consider.
"Entitlement reform should start with corporate welfare, or what the conservatives call crony capitalism," he says.
Bottom line: Nader thinks the Republicans, who did retain the House majority in the 2012 election, need to worry about surrendering control to the Democrats in 2014 if they don't show a willingness to compromise.
"It's up to Obama to really get much stronger," he says.
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