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Liberation, France

Obama, Disputed Architect
of the Fiscal Parachute


By Lorraine Millot and Fabrice Rousselot

Translated By Clare Durif

2 January 2013

Edited by Heather Martin

 


France - Liberation - Original Article (French)

The parachute allowing the U.S. to gently get back down the “fiscal cliff” was finally voted for by the House of Representatives in the night. As already mentioned on our pages, the deal now passed by Congress does not really resolve the basic issues, but does allow Barack Obama to be lauded as the one who finally made the Republicans “give in” by forcing them to accept a few tax increases for the richest of the rich: Those who earn more than $400,000 — fewer than two percent of Americans — will see a rise in their income tax rate in 2013. Even better, the agreement meant that, barely an hour after the House’s vote, the president could jump into his plane for the 10-hour flight back to Hawaii to reprise the family holiday interrupted after Christmas. A hasty departure that confirms what we suspected in recent days: Exhausted by almost a whole year of electoral campaigns without a break, Barack Obama endured these fiscal cliff negotiations with one eye on his suitcase and an overwhelming need to get back to the sun.

Despite whatever the White House might say, this fiscal cliff battle has not been a particularly glorious one for Obama, whose negotiation skills are once again called into question. After the failure of the Obama-Boehner duo, Vice President Joe Biden again came to the rescue and negotiated the deal with his Senate “buddies.” Throughout the discussions Barack Obama’s role was mainly to apply pressure to — and anger toward — Republicans by presenting himself as the protector of the middle classes, surrounded by some of its representatives in the style of a living nativity scene. The message was repeated again and again at the risk of alienating once and for all those with whom he was supposed to reach an agreement: Obama alone defends the interests of the vast majority of Americans faced with an incompetent Congress and Republicans who remain the henchmen of billionaires. As (Peter Baker) underlined this morning in The New York Times, even the Democrats have been unconvinced: “… It seemed to reopen a debate within his party about the nature of his leadership and his skills as a negotiator.” Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine also attacks the president for his second-rate poker player display (here) and (here); the (second post) of this analyst, who is said to be highly regarded by the White House, purports to being more positive. It concludes that the next negotiations concerning the debt ceiling, now that the Republicans are “emboldened,” might be even more difficult.



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