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GOP 'fiscal cliff' endgame: Let big government sting the middle class?

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That development puts the spotlight straight back on the kind of anti-tax, anti-spend tea party principles that helped to give the GOP the House in 2010, but which also left the party deeply fractured after Obama’s reelection this November.

To be sure, there may be a deeper logic than simple obstructionism at play within the GOP caucus, where some members, the theory goes, may be seeing an opportunity to avoid direct blame for a major middle class tax hike while making a deeper point about how America should be governed. How? By letting middle-class Americans start bearing the actual cost of electing a progressive president and a Democratic Senate, neither of which has seriously addressed entitlement spending.

“How can we expect people to care about the growth of government if it doesn’t cost them anything?” writes Marc Thiessen, a fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, in a Saturday Washington Post column. “Big government is great if you don’t have to pay for it. Well, now it’s time to pay the bill. Maybe when the costs of the stimulus, Obamacare and exploding entitlements are finally deducted from their paychecks, Americans will rediscover the virtue of smaller government.”

Liberals point to a counter-logic that they contend will drive even tea party Republicans to strike a last-minute deal to avoid the fiscal cliff.

“If the deal is reached … the Republicans have won: they have locked in a federal tax system that collects so little total federal revenue that government can afford almost nothing aside from the military, interest payments, retirement programs and health care,” writes Jeffrey Sachs, author of “The Price of Civilization,” on the Huffington Post.

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