Here's the Best Fiscal Cliff News So Far

Even though we don't know what's going on behind closed doors in the fiscal cliff negotiations — or on the phone lines (they talked!) — we can measure progress on the fight in a couple clear ways.

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Even though we don't know what's going on behind closed doors in the fiscal cliff negotiations — or on the phone lines (they talked!) — we can measure progress on the fight in a couple clear ways. One, since most of the fiscal cliff activity so far has been a choreographed PR campaign, we can measure which side advanced its cause in public opinion polls with three weeks (or more) to go. Two, we can see which way negotiations are heading based on the trajectory of the compromise ideas being floated on cable news — or when someone like Karl Rove says it's time for Republicans to at least look like they're compromising. Here's your guide to the progress laying on the surface so far.


  • Do Americans want to raise taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year? Yes. By 65 percent to 31 percent, Americans support ending the Bush tax cuts for those making above $250,000, a Quinnipiac poll released Thursday finds.
  • Do Americans like Grover Norquist's no-tax-hikes-ever pledge? No. Americans overwhelmingly think it's "A bad idea to sign a no-tax pledge," Quinnipiac finds. The divide is 85 percent opposed to 10 percent in favor, and the pledge is unpopular even among Republicans. They oppose a no-tax pledge by 77 percent to 15 percent.
  • Who do Americans trust on the fiscal cliff? Obama, by 53 percent to 36 percent, Quinnipiac says.
  • Who gets the blame if we go over the cliff? Republicans. A majority -- 53 percent -- of Americans would blame Republicans in Congress for going over the cliff, according to a Pew Research Center poll. A little more than a quarter -- 27 percent -- would blame President Obama.
  • Do they think going over is a bad idea? Yes, 64 percent think it will have a "major effect" on the U.S. economy, Pew finds, and 60 percent think the effect will be negative. 
  • Do they think we're going over? Yes, by 51 percent, Pew finds.

Evolving Ideas

The "37 percent solution." Right now, the top tax rate is 35 percent. If we go over the cliff, it goes up to 39.6 percent. Republicans have said they don't want to raise rates, but what if they could just raise it a little, to 37 percent? "Some Republicans" think this is "not such a bad idea" Politico's Jake Sherman and Steven Sloan reported Wednesday afternoon. That way they could give Obama a little on rates so they could get more in cuts to entitlements. And that's a change from late November, when even compromisers like Sen. Bob Corker were opposed to raising rates at all. The Wall Street Journal reported November 28 that Obama is flexible on the top rate.

A "fallback position." The New York Times' Jonathan Weisman reported December 4 that "Senior Republican leadership aides" are considering extending the Bush tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 a year, "and then resume the bitter fight over spending and taxes as the nation approaches the next hard deadline: its statutory borrowing limit, which could be reached in late January or February." And Sen. Tom Coburn told The Washington Post, "Personally, I know we have to raise revenue. I don’t really care which way we do it. Actually, I would rather see the rates go up than do it the other way, because it gives us a greater chance to reform the tax code and broaden the base in the future." That's a big change from November 28, when House Speaker John Boehner rejected Sen. Tom Cole's proposal of the exact same fallback, saying, "The goal here is to grow the economy and control spending; you're not going to grow the economy if you raise the top 2 percent rates... We're willing to put revenue on the table as long as we are not raising rates."

Karl Rove says cut a deal -- sort of. Rove argues in a Wall Street Journal op-ed posted Wednesday night that Republicans will be blamed if we go over the cliff. "The key for Republicans is to appear flexible rather than intransigent, willing to compromise rather than eager for a political smashup," he writes. But! Rove argues that going over the cliff will hurt Obama more, just like Obama was hurt more during the 2011 debt limit fight. (Rove doesn't mention one big difference between 2011 and 2012: what Obama wanted was unpopular then, and is popular now.) Obama looking uncompromising would help Republicans win Senate seats in 2014, he says. That doesn't sound like happy bipartisan compromise, but it's a change from what Rove said November 28. Then he argued that "The dissent has already begun over the president's calls for 'the rich' to pay more in taxes." Rove now admits raising rich people's taxes are popular. On November 20, Rove said Republicans should not raise tax rates and seemed okay with going over the cliff.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.