If you think that the President should try to work with Republicans for the public good, as he himself has said that he intends to do, you'd be wrong. Or at least that is what one Paul Krugman thinks.
President Obama has to make a decision, almost immediately, about how to deal with continuing Republican obstruction. How far should he go in accommodating the G.O.P.'s demands?
My answer is, not far at all. Mr. Obama should hang tough, declaring himself willing, if necessary, to hold his ground even at the cost of letting his opponents inflict damage on a still-shaky economy. And this is definitely no time to negotiate a "grand bargain" on the budget that snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.
In saying this, I don't mean to minimize the very real economic dangers posed by the so-called fiscal cliff that is looming at the end of this year if the two parties can't reach a deal. Both the Bush-era tax cuts and the Obama administration's payroll tax cut are set to expire, even as automatic spending cuts in defense and elsewhere kick in thanks to the deal struck after the 2011 confrontation over the debt ceiling. And the looming combination of tax increases and spending cuts looks easily large enough to push America back into recession.
Nobody wants to see that happen. Yet it may happen all the same, and Mr. Obama has to be willing to let it happen if necessary.
Krugman is willing to see the United States plunged back into recession, with all the pain that that involves for people who aren't on the New York Times payroll, if that is what it takes to win another political victory over Republicans.
A reasonable person could think that Republicans are part of the problem. I consider myself such a person. Any solution to the fiscal dilemma facing the United States will include tax increases across the board. Republicans are adamantly opposed to any increase of tax rates. The same reasonable person would have to think that really significant spending reductions are a necessary part of the solution.
Consider that the "fiscal cliff" involves spending cuts of $1.2 trillion over ten years. That is less that the yearly deficits we have been running over President Obama's first term. We are on the road to fiscal disaster. Perhaps if we defer the necessary pain for a bit longer, economic growth will recover and make the problem easier to deal with. Still, the interest on the federal debt is almost as large as the calculated cost of the Bush era tax cuts and larger than the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. We can and are winding down the wars, but we can't stop paying the interest. It will soon squeeze out all other federal spending.
Paul Krugman isn't the least bit interested in fiscal responsibility. He is very explicitly willing to sacrifice the American economy and grind up millions of ordinary people to the cause of humiliating Republicans. He is a despicable man. Let us fervently hope that the President does not share his view.