Harkin-led petition urges Obama: "Don't buckle"

U.S. Senator Tom Harkin has launched a petition drive urging President Barack Obama "to stand strong and protect the middle class in the fiscal ‘cliff’ negotiations."

In recent weeks, Harkin has called for a tough stance in negotiations with Republicans, rejecting "Social Security cuts for future or current beneficiaries in any deficit reduction package." In fact, Harkin compared the scaremongering about the so-called "fiscal cliff" to the panic about the supposed Y-2K computer bug in 1999.

“The kind of fear I sense out there now that’s being touted about this fiscal cliff is not unlike what I heard back when the millennium changed,” Harkin says.

“Remember? Computers were going to crash. Everything was going to go to hell. Bank accounts were going to be wiped out. There was all this tremendous fear that was out there.” […]

“Everything’s not going to crash on January the 1st – or 2nd or 3rd or 4th or 5th or anything,” Harkin says. “We’ll come back in January with a new congress, with the same president sworn back in and we can deal with it then, if we have to. Obviously, yeah, we’d like to get it settled this month, but as I’ve said, no deal is better than a bad deal.”

If the “cliff” isn’t avoided, Harkin remains unconvinced we’re headed for another near-immediate recession. “Things aren’t going to crash on January the 1st,” Harkin says.

“The economy is resilient. We are going to have to address it in January and February but there’s no gun at everybody’s head saying if you don’t do it by Christmas that the whole economy is going to tank. Far from the truth.”

Yesterday Harkin took his “no deal better than a bad deal” message to SignOn.org, an online petition service run by MoveOn.org Civic Action. In a mass e-mail, Harkin asked Iowans on the MoveOn list to sign the following petition telling the president, “Don’t buckle!”

Fight for the best deal for the middle class in the fiscal “cliff” negotiations by following these principles:

1. Reject damaging cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid beneficiaries;

2. Allow tax breaks for the wealthiest two percent to expire;

3. Invest in short term spending to spur job creation;

4. Ensure a 1-to-1 ratio of revenues to cuts; and

5. Be willing to take no deal in the short term to get a better deal for the middle class.

I doubt that Obama cares about any petition signed by a few thousand MoveOn members. During the debt ceiling talks in July 2011, the president showed that he is eager to put Social Security and Medicare on the table in exchange for minor tax increases affecting the wealthy. House Republican intransigence is the only reason that deal fell through.

Still, I find it encouraging that Harkin is leading the charge against bad compromises during the lame-duck session. The president can’t implement any deal without support from most of the Senate Democrats, and Harkin has influence among many of his colleagues. Also, I read this petition as a signal that Harkin is inclined to run for re-election in 2014, rather than retiring at the end of his fifth term. Online signature drives are a good way for politicians to build lists of supporters (volunteers as well as donors) going into a re-election campaign.

Incidentally, I don’t believe for one second that Representative Steve King would take on Harkin in 2014. He’s extreme, not dumb. Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz took himself off the list of potential challengers to Harkin as well.

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