Presidential debates: why $600 billion 'fiscal cliff' was barely mentioned (+video)
Neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney has said how he would deal with mandated spending cuts and a tax hike set to take hold in 2013. That's because any plan to avoid the 'fiscal cliff' is likely to be unpopular with voters.
The third and final presidential debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney in Boca Raton, Fla., on Monday night produced one word that neither candidate had uttered in any of their previous two prime-time tilts: sequester.
The sequester – $109 billion in automatic spending cuts scheduled for Jan. 1 – is only one part of the “fiscal cliff,” a package encompassing more than $600 billion in higher taxes and lower government spending that lands on America’s doorstep in the new year.
Yet the larger "fiscal cliff" issue didn’t get a mention by the presidential contenders or their vice presidential running mates in any of the four debates between the two sides.
“The silence from both presidential campaigns and the Congress of the United States has been thunderous on this question,” says William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. “Nobody wants to talk about it because all of the choices are so difficult.”
On Monday night, the only mention came when Mr. Romney criticized half of the sequester – cuts to defense spending – while Mr. Obama, in a surprise move, simply declared that the sequester "will not happen."
The president's statement appears to undercut what has been a Senate Democratic negotiating strategy: to use the threat of the sequester to leverage concessions from Republicans on raising taxes on Americans with the highest incomes. GOP leaders said they were surprised by the announcement, especially as the president has yet to present a plan to avoid the sequester.
Moreover, the presidential campaign has failed to prepare the American public for tough choices that face the newly elected president and Congress immediately after the Nov. 6 election.
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