Fiscal cliff update Dec. 14: GOP losing the opinion war

17 days to go to the cliff and the theme of media coverage heading into the weekend will undoubtedly be how the Republican Party’s favorability rating has dropped since the November election. A poll released this week by NBC News/WSJ shows that the percentage of those who view the party positively has dropped from 36 percent prior to the election, to 30 percent now in the midst of the fiscal cliff debate.

Americans are seemingly hungry for a resolution to this crisis, and as it would be appetizing for some to go off the cliff, a majority are still decidedly against automatic across the board tax hikes and drastic spending cuts. Democrats have been unceasingly painting this to their advantage — hence the “hostage taker” rhetoric that has become a favorite with some Democrats on Capitol Hill. If image is everything in Washington politics, and it’s clear that the image enhancers in the media sit comfortably in the Obama administration’s pocket, then the Congressional GOP either needs to awaken to the loss of this public relations battle or find a new way to portray the White House as the true culprit in prolonging poverty and a sluggish economy.

Christmas is little more than a week away. Folks across the country despise seeing their leaders drag this fight on that essentially rests on two points of interest. For Republicans, it’s about keeping tax rates low, but perhaps more importantly, finding ways to cut spending in an effective and substantial way — for example, by reforming entitlement programs that have tremendously bloated the national debt. For Democrats, it’s about raising taxes on the top 2 percent of income earners, and this is an ideology that has made its mark on the citizens of this country with President Obama’s “pay your fair share” mantra. In addition, liberals on Capitol Hill declare themselves dedicated to protecting the entitlements that they claim the GOP wants to cold heartedly slash, but raising more money for the ever consuming government is the ultimate sticking point as Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) made clear to the Wall Street Journal, saying, “On those basic tenets like raising taxes on the 2%, there is not a lot of leeway.”

This statement represents the attitude of a Democratic Party in Congress that is extraordinarily confident of reaching a fiscal cliff deal on its own terms, and furthermore shows no sign of letting up in the next several weeks.

Some of the important news and analysis leading off Friday below:

Reuters: Obama, Boehner hold “frank” meeting amid “fiscal cliff” frustration
President Barack Obama and House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner held a “frank” face-to-face meeting on Thursday in an effort to break an impasse in talks to avert the “fiscal cliff” of steep tax increases and spending cuts. With an end-of-year deadline looming, the two leaders talked at the White House as frustration mounted over the recent lack of progress in negotiations that had become bogged down in a daily round of finger-pointing. Aides on both sides used similar language to describe the 50-minute meeting, calling it “frank” and repeating that lines of communication remained open.

Washington Examiner: Conservatives pressure Boehner to demand deeper spending cuts
Conservative Republicans put pressure on House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday to reject any “fiscal cliff” deal with Democrats that raises taxes but doesn’t make significant cuts in federal spending. “What we are saying is that it is ridiculous for Republicans to accept any tax rate increase if there are no real cuts,” Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said during a forum featuring nine conservative House lawmakers. Their warning to the speaker comes just as congressional leaders are suggesting that negotiations with the White House over deficit reduction are making so little progress that they may not have a deal by Christmas.

Chicago Tribune: Democrats laud report challenging Republican tax ideas
Democratic lawmakers on Thursday lauded an updated congressional report that suggested there is no conclusive link between higher taxes on the affluent and economic growth, challenging a key tenet of Republican ideology amid the fiscal cliff debate. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service pulled a report on the issue from circulation last month, after Republican lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, complained about its methodology and disputed its conclusion. The CRS issued a revised report on Wednesday coming to similar conclusions. Its analysis of tax rates and growth over the past 65 years finds “the reduction in top tax rates has had little association with saving, investment or productivity growth.”

Fiscal Times: Voters Say, Let’s Make a Deal
Two-thirds of Americans want Washington to reach a deal and steer the country away from the fiscal cliff, even if it means cutting spending and raising taxes, a new NBC/WSJ poll released Thursday shows.  Even the majority of responders who self-identify as Republicans say the GOP should make concessions to Democrats in order to avoid the fiscal cliff. In April, just 38 percent of Republicans wanted a compromise between the two parties, but now, as the deadline fast approaches, 59 percent are hoping for a compromise.

Christian Science Monitor: How bad is the GOP’s image problem?
How bad is the Republican Party???s image problem? Pretty bad, according to the latest polls. A just-released NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey put the GOP dead last in the ratings of 11 political figures and institutions, for instance. Fully 45 percent of respondents said their feelings about the party of Abraham Lincoln were now ???somewhat??? or ???very??? negative. Part of the GOP???s problem is that losing a presidential election isn???t good for your brand. Many voters probably still see the Romney campaign as the face of the party as a whole. Part of it stems from the fact that there are now more self-identified Democrats in America than Republicans. Partisans usually disapprove of the other US political team.

WSJ: Democrats Confident They Have ‘Cliff’ Leverage
Democrats in Congress are in an almost buoyant mood over their bargaining strength in the fiscal-cliff talks. On the heels of election success, they think they can win a good deal by refusing to bend on key positions. Republicans warn that could backfire. The cheeriness in the Democratic cloakroom comes from an assurance, well-placed or not, that Republicans will have to drop their opposition to raising tax rates on higher earners, giving Democrats a victory at the outset of President Barack Obama‘s second term. One gauge came recently when White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer briefed Democratic senators. Mr. Pfeiffer was greeted warmly, according to someone in the room, in contrast with the hostile reception confronting then-White House Budget Director Jacob Lew in 2011, when Democrats faced a harsher political environment and were embroiled in finger pointing.

NRO: Peter Schweizer on Muni Bonds
Peter Schweizer of the Government Accountability Institute has an article calling on Congress to start taxing municipal-bond interest as ordinary income:  “Why would Republicans agree to eliminate a tax break? Simple: municipalities have become big spenders swimming in debt. Low interest rates and the current tax exemption make borrowing money cheap, thereby encouraging debt. The Federal Reserve reports that state and local government debt doubled over the last ten years, rising from $1.4 trillion in 2002 to $3 trillion in 2011. Shrink the incentive to bankroll big spending and you shrink the size of government???something most Republicans say they support … “