Stepping back from the fiscal cliff?

Well, here’s an encouraging post-election development:

Quickly pivoting the political conversation from President Obama’s reelection to Washington’s looming budget battles, House Speaker John A. Boehner on Wednesday offered a potential path to compromise, saying Republicans are “willing to accept new revenue” to tame the soaring national debt and avert an ugly battle over the approaching “fiscal cliff.”

With Obama’s decisive electoral victory and Republicans’ hold on the House, with a slightly smaller majority, Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday’s election amounted to a plea from voters for the parties to lay down their weapons of the past two years and “do what’s best for our country.”

“That is the will of the people. And we answer to them,” Boehner said at an afternoon news conference at the Capitol. “For purposes of forging a bipartisan agreement that begins to solve the problem, we’re willing to accept new revenue, under the right conditions.”…

Last night, I was hearing that it appeared unlikely that House Republicans,  having held onto their power, would be any more willing to talk compromise than they have since 2010.

So this is good news. We may be able to arrive at a reasonable solution — although I’m sure the end product won’t be pleasant or fun for anyone involved, including us, the people.

But here’s the tough question: Can Boehner back this up, or will Eric Cantor be explaining to him right about now that he’s not allowed to do this?

70 thoughts on “Stepping back from the fiscal cliff?

  1. Michael Rodgers

    This is not news. The “under the right conditions” caveat explains clearly that there will never be the right conditions. The US House Republicans will remain stridently and obstinately opposed to any increase in the tax rates at the top. Meanwhile they will be happy to raise taxes on the middle class, for example by increasing the tax burden on people with mortgages by eliminating that deduction.

    The issue is not who wants to raise taxes and who wants to cut entitlements. Both parties want to raise taxes and cut entitlements. President Obama is willing and practically eager to cut entitlements. The US House Republicans want to raise taxes on the middle class and the lower class and the poor.

    The story remains the same:

    1) The US House Republicans will be reasonable on everything except the tax rates at the top. They will not accept, under any conditions, any increase of the tax rates at the top.

    2) President Obama will be reasonable on everything, including all parts of the welfare state, all parts of entitlement reform, and all parts of tort reform, and really and truly everything. What he will demand for his unprecedented and practically outrageous embrace of Republican reform proposals is that the Republicans accept increased tax rates at the top.

    From the perspective of the US House Republicans, President Obama is the problem, because he’s trying to make them swallow a poison pill. From President Obama’s perspective (which most liberals and independents share), the US House Republicans are the problem because they won’t budge at all, regardless of how much President Obama offers them.

    Rinse. Repeat.

  2. Brad

    Michael, you should enjoy this, from The Onion:

    WASHINGTON—Following the president’s reelection Tuesday, top Republicans Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and Eric Cantor expressed relief, saying the primary purpose of their lives—to stymie, irritate, and confound President Obama at every turn—had not been taken away from them. “Had Barack Obama lost his occupation, then we too would have lost ours,” said Sen. McConnell (R-KY), calling an existence in which he doesn’t wake up every morning and figure out ways to systematically block the president’s agenda an empty one. “Tomorrow, I will go to the Capitol building and immediately say that Republicans are unable to work with the president if he wants to raise taxes on the wealthy. That’s a life worth living. That’s a life where I feel like I’m actually contributing something to society.” Cantor and Boehner said they were thankful not to have ended up like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who committed suicide after the first presidential debate, when it appeared as if Mitt Romney might win the election.

  3. Doug Ross

    They will punt once again.. they’ll come up with a last minute “kick the can down the road” agreement. The cliff will just get steeper when we eventually drive over it.

  4. Michael Rodgers


    Since you asked: Yes, really, most liberals and independents think that the problem is the House Republicans. About the Senate, most liberals and independents think that the problem is how the Republicans are abusing the filibuster.

    My point, though, is not about who deserves blame. What I wrote was not blaming but explaining. The House Republicans expected (and expect) to get a deal with President Obama (and the Senate Democrats). The House Republicans were, and are as I said, very reasonable. They drew a line around one and only one item and labeled it as a poison pill. President Obama (and the Senate Democrats) seems bound and determined to make them swallow that pill.

    What I wrote describes what the issue is. House Republicans are willing and eager to deal, except that they will refuse every deal that includes tax increases at the top. President Obama (and the Senate Democrats) is willing and eager to deal, except that he (and they) will refuse every deal that does not include tax increases at the top. That’s where we are.

    The issue is not about taxes generally, but about specific taxes specifically. As to which party wants to raise taxes generally, the clear answer is the Republicans. As to which party wants to raise specific taxes at the top, while lowering taxes everywhere else, the clear answer is the Democrats.

  5. Steven Davis II

    @Michael – Thank you for the typical liberal answer. You guys must have a canned answer for everything.

  6. tired old man

    The reporting emphasis has been rightly on Obama winning — but the unreported story is that the Dems picked up Senate and House seats. And at the expense of Tea Party types, and Jim Deminted’s agenda.

    Yesterday’s vote was absolutely a vote for the middle. Both Obama and Romney had moved there, but only one could survive and the voters certainly took their time mulling that one over.

    Michelle Bachman escaped with a 1% victory but other Tea Party people were not so lucky.

    The Dems put 23 Senate seats up for grabs, and the GOP only 10. True, no sitting Republican senator went down but then again Jim Deminted’s endorsements fell.

    The Republicans absolutely have to abandon their preoccupation with uteruses, and leave science to the realm of bioligists. Might help to acknowledge that trying to deport someone’s relative means that they have a hard on for you next time they see you or your party affiliation at the ballot box. And that the supply of older white men is finite, even given the staying power of the baby boom.

    Plus women care, and women vote. Nikki Haley take note: Yes, wives and mothers care about jobs and the economy, but they also do not welcome pseudo-OBY/GYNs meddling in their personal affairs.

    Let’s hope the GOP house leadership can read the tea leaves (or the sudden absence of them) and re-embrace that tried and true approach of compromise and progress.

    If not, the economy goes down the toilet and takes with it any meaningful national influence of the Republican Party.

    And in the meantime, back here in the Palmetto State, our heart weaps for Argentina.

  7. Michael Rodgers

    What Speaker Boehner is saying now is the same thing that he said before and is the same thing that Gov. Chris Christie says a lot and that Doug says a lot here, which is basically, “President Obama, you must prove to me that you’ve done everything you can to cut spending and to improve efficiency before we talk about raising revenues [at the top].”

    When Speaker Boehner first said this, President Obama misunderstood him. President Obama heard, “If you satisfy me with some cuts and efficiencies, then I will satisfy you with some revenue increases.” President Obama (mis)heard a negotiation process being offered, and he accepted that process that he misunderstood.

    President Obama sent VP Biden to negotiate what the administration considered as round 1 (the “if” part) of the talks with Speaker Boehner. VP Biden did exactly that and Speaker Boehner was very happy. Speaker Boehner misunderstood the framework that the administration was operating under. Speaker Boehner quite naturally assumed that the negotiations with VP Biden were the whole deal and not just round 1. VP Biden never asked for increased revenues, and so Speaker Boehner told his caucus the good news, that a deal was being negotiated and that revenue increases were not part of the deal.

    Then VP Biden told President Obama that Speaker Boehner was satisfied with the cuts and efficiencies, because indeed Speaker Boehner was satisfied with the cuts and efficiencies. President Obama was very happy because he thought that now they could move on to round 2, the “then” part, where revenues would get raised at the top. Speaker Boehner was very happy because he thought that the negotiations were complete.

    When President Obama announced that now he wanted to get the revenue increases, the Republicans went apoplectic, and you can see why. From their perspective, President Obama was coming from nowhere, undoing a deal that his administration had already reached, and suddenly asking for something that the Republicans had declared to be not only anathema to them but also off the table.

    Meanwhile, President Obama was mystified. He was following the “if, then” negotiation framework proposed by the House Republicans and satisfying them with their demands for cuts and efficiencies. Those demands were high, and he was bending over backwards to get them what they wanted. Now it was time for the quid pro quo, and that’s when the Republicans bail out? What kind of negotiation is it when only one side, his side makes any movement? How could the House Republicans possibly think that they could get cuts and efficiencies without having to give tax increases at the top?

    That’s where we are. The Republicans think that President Obama does not negotiate in good faith and cannot be worked with. But what it is is just one misunderstanding after another, beginning with President Obama’s misunderstanding.

    How do we move on from here? Doug may be right; the only way is to kick the can down the road. But Speaker Boehner’s comments now are the same as before. One hopes that President Obama won’t misunderstand them again.

  8. bud

    Brad, you completely misread what Boener said. Essentially he’s saying the same old stuff about closing phantom loopholes and getting more revenue through the magic of economic growth. He’s not budging one inch on tax rates. Unless the GOP in the house is willing to raise rates a bit on those making over $1million then we’re going to have yet another game of fiscal cliff chicken. In the end the Dems will likely cave again but at least I have a tiny bit of hope that a sensible compromise can be achieved.

  9. Bart

    The incoming tide of change for the face of America is slowly reaching the shoreline and it has already inched the tide a little higher in favor of Democrats and ultimately, the inevitable experiment with a more socialist centric form of government. This move has been coming for decades and anyone who has been paying attention to the incremental steps toward a more open form of socialism understands it and those who have not have their heads buried in the sand, refusing to accept the reality of human nature.

    The 1% that has been so dominant in the news the past four years has always been with us no matter what form of government, rule, dictatorship, democracy, monarchy, or whatever rules for the moment in time. There will always be a 1%, even in a totally communist or socialist government and that is a fact that cannot be ignored. Somewhere, most likely one can find that even in the caveman era, the 1% existed much to the displeasure of many who resented their ownership of several saber toothed tiger hides and selection of clubs for different occasions.

    Obama made his campaign against the 1% his clarion call and rallied his base around this single point as a central theme. And, it worked. Most reasonable political pundits have admitted we are no longer a center right country but more of a center left as evidenced by this election. I suspect the trend will continue and the country will move more to the left and depending on what happens in the first few months of Obama’s second term, he may be able to secure another super majority after the 2014 elections, especially if the Republican Party continues down the same path and refuses to acknowledge the changing demographics of the American voter. If they cannot have a big tent where social diversity is acceptable and a willingness to accept those differences, a third party will emerge to compete with them and by fiat, Democrats will have total control of America. If that is the end result, it will not be a good thing for America. We need reasonable voices from both sides to reach an accord that works for the good of America, not for a select few.

    The Tea Party has been successfully portrayed as racist, out of touch, old white people, and about every negative connotation possible assigned to the movement. Its short term relevance has been discredited and the Sharon Angles, Michele Bachman’s and others have lost their appeal to the voters. This is another indication that the old guard is moving on and the baton has been passed to the next generation who are more prone to accepting a socialist state than their predecessors.

    The so-called fiscal cliff will be the first test to see if they have moved on (both parties) and are willing to put the good of the people first and their pettiness on the bench (again, both parties). At this point, all we have is conjecture and opinions.

  10. Kathryn Fenner

    The Obama campaign did not make itself all about the 1%; the opposition said it did. “Forward” was more about progressive social agendas, such as marriage equality. What the Democrats decry is not that there is a 1%; we are far more the party of math and science than the GOP is, and we know that just as all the children cannot be above average, there will always be a top one percent. The issue is that the top one percent has reaped vastly disproportionate gains relative to the lower 99 percentiles. Think about how in Japan, it is shameful for the CEO to make more than 7 or 8 times what the lowest paid worker makes, versus the rewards granted to CEOs of very poorly performing companies.

  11. Bart


    I will respectfully disagree with you on that point. Although the other issues were an integral part of the campaign, the 1% was the main, prevailing theme and the one that resonated with the majority of Obama’s base. The opposition did recognize it and tried to use it against Obama but it failed.

    The 1% became a euphemism for anyone making over $250,000 because it resonated much better than the lower limits of what was labeled as being “rich”.

  12. bud

    By definition there will always be a richest 1% in any country. That’s just a mathematical fact. It does not necessarily follow that this 1% continue to increase their proportion of the national wealth. Again, by definition, if they increase their wealth at a rate faster than the economy is growing overall then those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder MUST HAVE LESS. That is what has happened in the USA even as productivity has increased the amount of wealth for families in the middle and lower rungs of the ladder are actually declined. And this has happened under both democrats and republicans. But apparently it has happened faster under the GOP simply because they are much more beholden to the rich.

    So what to do? The first thing is to never elect Republicans to any national office. Not because there are no good Republicans but simply because they are much more likely to act in the interests of the rich. As they say follow the money.

    Second, once Democrats acquire a bit more political power the voters can leverage their support by demanding they implement policies that make it easier to form labor unions and make the tax code more progressive.

    With Obama now a lame duck he no longer has to grovel for money and hopefully he can get back to his community organizer roots and begin to work for a greater amount of economic equity.

  13. Doug Ross


    “The issue is that the top one percent has reaped vastly disproportionate gains relative to the lower 99 percentiles. ”

    Replace “reaped” with “earned”. Skill is still rewarded whether it comes via business acumen, investment knowledge, having the perseverance to make an idea into a marketable product, or being able to sing a song that gets a million teenage girls to buy it. The 1% are not lottery winners or thieves or slave owners. They are just better at doing what they do than we humble folk are. They don’t owe us any more than the millions of taxes they pay or the job opportunities they create.

    And do we really want Japan’s economy?

    It’s silly to think we can have Canada’s healthcare system, Japan’s pay scales, Finland’s schools, and America’s military. Doing one thing impacts the rest.

  14. Doug Ross

    Oh, how I wish Bud could get his wish. It would end liberalism in about six months. But we’ll see how Obama does in term 2. We’ll know pretty well in 2016 how Obamacare is working out. We’ll also see what the unemployment rate is in 2016. Obama lost 10 million voters in four years. Another 10 million might be hard to overcome for President Joe Biden.

  15. bud

    Replace “reaped” with “earned”.

    That’s ridiculous. Many of the very rich are rich by virtue of inheritance (Walton family, Koch Brothers) or by non-productive businesses that prey on ignorance and addiction (Sheldon Addelson with his casino empire) or by a combination of ruthless business accumen and plain ole luck (Bill Gates). Or by some combination of the above (Mitt Romney). I doubt there is a single person in this nation who has actually earned a penny of wealth over about $10 million. The rest is the result of a system slanted in their favor.

  16. bud

    I wish Bud could get his wish. It would end liberalism in about six months.

    True liberalism died off about 20 years ago. There was not one mention of things like global warming or the excess size of the military in this years election. So by what definition of liberalism are you using. I’m just hoping to return to a nation that has a somewhat sane moderate approach to the nation’s problems rather than the complete insanity of unworkable liberarian pie-in-the sky nonsense.

  17. Steven Davis II

    “It’s silly to think we can have Canada’s healthcare system, Japan’s pay scales, Finland’s schools, and America’s military. Doing one thing impacts the rest.”

    Don’t forget we’re heading toward Greece’s future.

  18. Michael Rodgers

    How are we headed toward Greece’s future? How is the USA like Greece? At what price do we sell our US government bonds? In what currency is our debt? And, most importantly, when will you ever get that sandwich that you want?

  19. Michael Rodgers

    That first bit from The Onion isn’t satire, it’s reporting. To get to satire, they’d have put the House Republicans in Gollum’s cave saying “my precious” about tax cuts and feature President Obama as Saruman with an army of voter-impersonating orcs.

  20. Steven Davis II

    @Michael – Your right, this country is sound financially. My bad. All of this Obama talk about admitting that he expects our debt level to reach 20 trillion dollars before it can get better must be just that, talk.

    Much of our debt is in Chinese Yuan. I’m not clear which all countries we owe money to.

  21. Phillip

    Bart, Doug, please. It’s very simple. America is fundamentally not a radical nation, but a moderate one. Bart, assuring that there are reasonable checks and balances between our competing national doctrines of capitalism and democracy is not at all the same as advancing “socialism” per se. Pure socialism is a dead-end; but so is pure Capitalism, worshiped as an unbending dogma. One problem for the GOP at the national level is that conservatism (or the radical version of it that passes for it today) has lost a significant amount of its ability to appeal to middle-class voters (not to mention lower-income voters) because, since Reagan, it has gradually moved further and further to the right, becoming less a movement about empowering all to improve their lot, and more a movement to impose a radical vision of hyper-capitalism, as unregulated and unshackled as possible, regardless of the damage that does to the middle class in this country, and in fact seeking to “freeze” class levels in this country.

    As I mentioned to Doug the other day, conservatives used to be able to make the argument to the middle class that their policies were in their economic interest but that’s become harder and harder to do. There’s got to be somebody out there who can be a moderate, not dogmatic conservative, and do it. But Romney was the very personification of an oddly amoral “capital-making” machine with no capacity to connect to the middle class or working class.

    In the end, as mediocre as our economy is, as still high as unemployment is, as much doubt as many people have about Obama’s handling of the economy, a slim majority felt that the alternative—what you guys seem to endorse, what Romney/Ryan proposed—was an even worse alternative. So yes, Obama “lost voters.” But he was supposed to lose this election (from the GOP perspective) and that he did not is less an endorsement of his policies (I acknowledge that) and more a rejection of the alternative.

  22. Bryan Caskey

    “So what to do? The first thing is to never elect Republicans to any national office.”

    I agree. I’m voting Democrat for the next few cycles. Lets enact every policy that bud wants. I’m not fighting the fight anymore.

    Let it burn.

  23. Brad

    Bryan’s “let it burn” bit of irony reminds me of a quote I read last night in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about Lincoln, “Team of Rivals.”

    After explaining how Lincoln, while in Congress, got himself into trouble back home in Illinois by opposing the war with Mexico, she quotes this remark from a Chicago politician:

    Asked whether he were opposed to the Mexican War, Justin Butterfield said, “No, I opposed one war [the War of 1812]. That was enough for me. I am now perpetually in favor of war, pestilence and famine.”

  24. Steven Davis II

    @Michael – I learned long ago that it’s not worth my time to argue with a brick wall.

    So if I owe you money and I owe myself money, the debt owed to you is less important to pay back than the one to myself. Gotcha.

  25. Doug Ross

    ” I doubt there is a single person in this nation who has actually earned a penny of wealth over about $10 million. ”

    Then why do we keep paying athletes and movie stars more than that every year? Did they earn it or not? Do they hold the country at gunpoint and force them to pay the salaries?

    How about Dean Kamen – the guy who invented the Segway? He also invented a pump for administering insulin to diabetics.. and a wheelchair that climbs stairs. He’s earned well north of $10 million. Or was he just lucky?

    Was Sam Walton lucky? Or just his kids? Walt Disney? Darla Moore? The guys who created Google? Steve Jobs? every one of them – just lucky. If you had just got all the breaks they got over their lives, you’d be right there beside them in the Forbes 400.

  26. Brad

    It’s not all one or the other, folks. It’s not just luck, and it’s not just something that happened as a result of what they did, independent of factors beyond their control.

    Life is complicated.

  27. Doug Ross

    I’m wondering about the term “fiscal cliff”. Is it really a cliff or a real opportunity to do what should have been done in the first place?

    Cut spending? Sounds like a great idea. Let Bush tax cuts expire? Okay… seems like a fair tradeoff.

    Why don’t we just try this approach?

  28. Doug Ross


    No it isn’t. And I’ll keep repeating it. Luck is one event. It’s what you do with your opportunities that matter. A career isn’t luck.

    Some people are better than me at what they do and I am better than others. I accept that without any animosity toward those who do better than I do.

    We’re all not equals with just varying degrees of lucky breaks.

  29. Doug Ross


    Yes. You are correct. If it weren’t for all the diabetics, Kamen wouldn’t be lucky enough to have any purpose for his insulin pump. He’s shouldn’t forget that.

  30. Brad

    Doug, you have to do the right thing at the right time in the right place under the right conditions to make a fortune from what you do.

    If these ballplayers who make millions today had played 100 years ago, they’d be struggling to get by — and yet they were as talented, and worked as hard, as ballplayers today.

    Things have to click. Lots of things have to click, and you can only control some of them.

    Look at Roger Fidler. He came up with the idea for the tablet computer in the early 90s. But nothing was ready for it at the time, including the demand. Now, Apple makes billions from the iPad, which was essentially his idea. (The difference was that Apple had the infrastructure — from a company that was basically failing as a personal computer company before the iPod, etc. — to produce those devices, and to do it when all the technologies had matured to the right point.)

    And of course, we don’t even know the names of all the people who had awesome ideas, and slaved to develop them, but died poor because they never found themselves in the right place at the right time.

    I can’t recreate the success of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. I could try to do absolutely everything they did, step by step, be twice as brilliant in the way it and work twice as hard, but it wouldn’t work, because they already did it, and did it under the right circumstances at the right times.

    No one knows what the next thing that hits big will be. There are loads of smart people working hard trying to be that next thing, and a few of them will hit it big, because they’ll hit a growing demand at the right time, when they have the capacity to meet that demand. Others who were just as smart and worked just as hard — the overwhelming majority — will not make the same fortune.

    You’ll probably say that the ones who guessed where the market was going are more worthy of the greater success. But I submit that no one KNOWS what will happen next. Some people will just end up being right, and others, just as smart and hard-working and deserving, will not be. They wouldn’t call it “risk” if that weren’t the case.

    Life is complicated. And it’s a mistake to build a belief system around the notion that it’s not. It’s an oversimplification to say that the successful person entirely “deserves” his success, and it’s just as wrong to say, as Bud does, that he does not.

  31. Steven Davis II

    I’d be happy if the government actually just had to run on a balanced budget. Don’t have enough money, raise revenue or cut expenses until the two columns match. Make every citizen contribute, people’s annual income shouldn’t go up when they file their income tax return.

  32. Brad

    In other words, the way it works on the state level.

    And if you’re referring to the Earned Income Tax Credit — I’m not sure I think that’s a good idea, either.

    Of course, it should be noted that that is an idea that came from the conservative end of the spectrum — from Milton Friedman.

  33. Doug Ross


    In order for you to do what Bill Gates or Steve Jobs did, you would have to be Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. You aren’t. I’m not. They didn’t have a single idea. They had a vision, executed on that vision, had failures (Microsoft and Apple have had hundreds of failed products). Were those failures good luck? Or was the ability to cut bad ideas loose a skill?

    When the print newspaper industry eventually goes away, was that due to bad luck or a lack of vision and risk aversion? That industry has created its own demise by being slow to change.

    Roger Fidler didn’t come up with the idea of the tablet. He came up with the idea of his version of a tablet for reading newspapers. That’s not the iPad. A tablet without software is a paperweight. Why does the iPad outsell the Nook? Because people think it is better. Why did Apple come out with the iPad mini? Because the Kindle Fire was eating into Apple’s marketshare. There are people out there constantly trying to sell their products and the market eventually decides who is better.

    Having ideas doesn’t make anybody rich. Having the skill to turn an idea into a product can.

  34. Doug Ross

    Would you rather be at The State right now in your old job hanging on until retirement or where you are now at ADCO?

    If the latter, than I’d say your back luck of being let go from The State was actually good luck because it forced you to respond to the opportunity in front of you. You seem to have made the most of it.

  35. Doug Ross

    FYI, it looks like Roger Fidler got HIS idea from Alan Kay, a computer pioneer, who back in
    1972 described a tablet device called the Dynabook:

    “Suppose the display panel covers the full extent of the notebook surface. Any keyboard arrangement one might wish can then be displayed anywhere on the surface. Four strain gauges mounted under the corners of the panel will register the position of any touch to within 3/16″ which is close enough. The bottom portion of the display panel can be textured in various ways to permit touch typing. This arrangement allows the font in which one is typing to be shown on the keys, special characters can be windowed, and user identifiers can be selected with one touch.”

    Sounds like an iPad to me…

  36. bud

    Doug, we’ve had this conversation before and I doubt I’ll convince you. But it just seems to me that regardless of how the very rich got to be very rich it is clear they are not victims if we have a very progressive tax code. The folks who may not be as talented, hardworking or lucky as the billionares in our country nevertheless contribute a great deal in terms of labor and in some cases ingenuity to society. I just don’t quite get this over-riding concern that the super rich are somehow victims if we require them to contribute a bit more for the government that has provided them with the environment to prosper. Afterall by definition isn’t it obvious that the structure the rich deal with is conducive to their success? Shouldn’t they be more than willing to contribute to that structure through a bit higher taxes?

  37. Doug Ross

    On Fidler’s tablet idea:

    ” For example, he didn’t anticipate the touchscreen interface or widely available broadband connectivity. He imagines kiosks where you could load up the latest newspaper onto a portable storage media (think today’s USB jump drives). ”

    So his idea of a tablet was a non-starter because the thought of going to a kiosk to plug in your laptop isn’t very practical.

    Execution matters.

  38. Brad

    Right. He came up with the idea at the wrong time.

    This was the second time that Knight Ridder (part of an industry you don’t think tries to adapt), tried something that the world wasn’t ready for — for the simple reason that there was no WWW.

    In the mid-80s, there was VuTron, headed by my old mentor Reid Ashe. It was an electronic news delivery system. Just text, I believe.

    Of course, this was in the days that if you wanted something on your computer from some other remote computer, you had to dial a phone line connected to that computer’s modem. There was no Web.

    Reid tried like crazy to make it work, but there was a problem with the market — almost no one had personal computers yet. At one point, he was giving away computers (probably TRS-80s, I don’t know for sure) to anyone who would subscribe to the service.

    It all collapsed before the PC and WWW revolutions. Knight Ridder would later be at the forefront of developing online newspapers, in San Jose and “Nando” in Raleigh. Very cutting edge. But that did not translate into great success online for the whole company. And in any case, no one could figure out (and no one has YET figured out) how to make the online product pay well enough to support a newsroom, on the local level.

    Back before VuTron, when we were working together in Tennessee Reid explored a number of other ways to deliver news, using cable TV. I helped him with that. We were exploring doing hourly headline broadcasts from our newsroom (for the full story, get your paper tonight), and putting text on screen as a streaming service that would also bring people to the paper for more.

    But our owners at Des Moines Register and Tribune Company didn’t give Reid enough rope to make it work. I think that’s one of the reasons he left and went to KR.

  39. Steven Davis II

    @bud – ” The folks who may not be as talented, hardworking or lucky as the billionares in our country nevertheless contribute a great deal in terms of labor and in some cases ingenuity to society. ”

    What about the ones who do nothing but sit on the couch all day and contribute nothing to society?

  40. Steven Davis II

    @bud – Okay, let’s make the rich contribute more… only if the poor contribute something. Everyone contributes and if they do so they can get back some of the things people should have to function in this world. Does one need a cell phone, no. Do they need a home phone, yes. Do they need cable television, no. Do they need local news and programing (such as free over the air like I have now), yes.

    There is a difference between a luxury and a necessity or a need and a want.

  41. Brad

    Ah, but you DON’T need a home phone — not if you have a cell phone. We got rid of ours more than a year ago.

    And between the two, if I wanted someone to get out into the world and get a job and be productive, I’m thinking they’d be more likely to find a cell phone useful in doing that — rather than sitting at home in order to be in communication with the world.

  42. Doug Ross

    “Right. He came up with the idea at the wrong time.”

    No, he didn’t. Alan Kay beat him to it by a decade. Kay is far more famous in the computer world than Fidler. And that’s because Kay did something more than just come up with an idea.

    And you’re missing the point. Fidler’s idea wasn’t much more advanced than Dick Tracy’s video watch. It’s like the Michael Keaton character in “Night Shift” who comes up with the idea to feed mayonnaise to tuna. Might be a good idea — but it takes a lot more effort and skill to get that first tuna to swallow the mayo.

    That’s the difference between successful people and those who aren’t as successful. I’m not saying Fidler didn’t do something that was interesting or visionary. Just that he lacked the ability to execute on it. Others who succeed can do both.

  43. Doug Ross


    I don’t think the super rich are victims at all. I just think that they pay enough in income taxes (i.e. the majority) and create environments that allow others to have jobs. That’s a good thing.

    What fails to register in your head is that whatever problem you have with the amount of taxes paid by the super-rich, THEY DIDN’T CREATE THE TAX CODE. Republicans AND Democrats did. There was no cabal of super-rich people who got together to create the IRS. So stop blaming the rich for something they did not do.

    Anyone with half a brain can see that the tax code is the problem. It’s the result of politicians attempting to engineer the economy. We should have a flat tax with a couple rates and no deductions. But we won’t because then what would the politicians do?

  44. Kathryn Fenner

    I would argue that a cell phone and Internet access are basics now. You don’t need TV if you have the Internet.

  45. Michael Rodgers

    @Doug is right. This “fiscal cliff” is no such thing. We should implement the spending cuts and allow the tax cuts to expire, as planned.

  46. Michael Rodgers

    I am neither a brick wall nor a liberal hack. Also, Roly Poly is a great place for you to get a sandwich. Mmmm.

  47. Steven Davis II

    @Brad – If you don’t have either, and someone else is paying for it the cheaper and more reliable of the two is the better choice.

    I take it you haven’t seen the video of the lady with 30 Obamaphones… cause they’re free. According to your idea she should be working three jobs and be a CEO of those three businesses.

    It’s amazing how people have become dependant on cell phones. If you’re hiring would their having a cell phone be a requirement upon answering your ad? Would it matter if they put a landline or a cell phone number down?

  48. Phillip

    I had much the same thought as Doug and Michael in hearing all the gnashing of teeth over the “fiscal cliff.” We bemoan the inability of our federal government to reach grand compromises, but it seems they reached one and are trying to figure out desperately how to “unreach” that agreement. If we go off the fiscal cliff, doesn’t that amount to a kind of “grand bargain” in itself, with something for both sides to love and hate?

  49. Steven Davis II

    So the liberals voting for Obama also want the Bush tax cuts to go away. If I understand this correctly the following will happen on January 1.

    10% Bracket -> 15% Tax Bracket (50% increase!)
    Social Security (Employee Portion) -> 4.2% to 6.2% (~50% increase)
    Tax on the HIGHEST bracket is going from 35% -> 38% (~8% increase)

    So the liberals just voted for a 50% increase in their income taxes. Are they happy now?

  50. Steven Davis II

    To put it in terms most will understand, I’m cutting and pasting an example of what this means to a middle class household with two working adults.

    “I have news for you. I’ve already talked to my tax guy about the possible implications of letting the tax rate cuts expire. The wife and have a combined income of just over 100K, and we’re going to be looking at about $4100 per year more owed. $341 a month more in taxes. That’s a car payment”

  51. Michael Rodgers

    President Obama proposed cutting taxes for the middle class. Governor Romney proposed taking away our mortgage deduction. If the House Republicans don’t pass President Obama’s tax cuts, then they are the ones raising the taxes. Thank God President Obama will stop them from taking away our mortgage deduction.

  52. Michael Rodgers

    WSJ has Stephen Moore’s “Weekend Interview” with Sen. Mitch McConnell. Neither President Obama nor the Republicans will budge at all from their positions on the tax rates at the top. I, like Mr. McConnell, hope that President Obama will have an epiphany that will bring him the wisdom to accept what he cannot change.

  53. Kathryn Fenner

    I believe the mortgage interest deduction in spportable except to prop up the housing industry. From a public policy standpoint, allowing a savings interest deduction is far preferable.

  54. Brad

    You think so? You think what our sluggish economy needs is a financial incentive for more people to sit on money? That doesn’t sound right to me.

    I’m not talking about taking on unwise debt. I’m saying we need people to have the confidence to spend within their means, rather than hoard wealth.

  55. Steven Davis II

    Is mortgage deduction really that big of a deal any longer with current interest rates? You don’t get dollar for dollar back, you get about 15-20 cents on the dollar back for every dollar paid in mortgage interest claimed.

    When I did my taxes last year after refinancing for 3-something interest rate the previous year I didn’t see a huge jump in my TurboTax return automatic calculation. It might have been $400-$500, but it wasn’t at all close to what I actually paid in mortgage interest.

  56. Steven Davis II

    Brad, we ain’t seen sluggish yet. If we fall off the fiscal cliff, more money will be taken out of people’s paychecks which means less money to spend in stores. People will cut back on services like cable television, internet, cell phone plans, etc. People will see less money in their pocket so that means less going out to eat, combining errands to save on gas, etc.

  57. Steven Davis II

    @Michael – ” If the House Republicans don’t pass President Obama’s tax cuts”

    I hear it’s going to be blamed on Bush… “it’s Bush’s fault”. Someone should make a bumper sticker or copyright that phrase.

  58. Michael Rodgers

    From the wsj, looks like there’s some wisdom on the fiscal cliff from President Obama: “I just want to emphasize: I am open to new ideas. If the Republican counterparts or some Democrats have a great idea for us to raise revenue, maintain progressivity, make sure the middle class isn’t getting hit, reduces our deficit, encourages growth, I’m not going to just slam the door in their face.”

    Here’s a great idea, from Gov. Mitt Romney: cap total deductions.

    Here are two stories about it from The Atlantic.

    1) How Mitt Romney Can Save Us From the Fiscal Cliff

    2) Democrats Are Now Pushing Mitt Romney’s Tax Idea

Comments are closed.