When Bill Clinton took on Republicans he usually won. He won in part because Republicans caved. But he also won because the public was not solidly with the Republicans and just wanted a solution. There was one issue that Bill Clinton lost. Republicans won this battle because the public was with them.
What was this issue? Welfare Reform. So why did the Republicans win this issue? The welfare reform battle was won because Republican values matched those of most Americans. Americans believe one simple proposition: Those receiving welfare should work for those benefits.
How does this apply to the Fiscal Cliff? Simple. Why is the U.S. deficit so high? One of the biggest drivers of the deficit is the expansion of the welfare state. Wefare spending now exceeds $1 trillion. Controlling this spending would reduce our deficit without raising taxes that might kill job creation, without taking benefits that people worked their whole lives for (Social Security and Medicare), and without sacrificing needed defense spending.
How can we control this welfare spending? Simple. Require anyone receiving ANY form of welfare benefits (whether it is food stamps, extended unemployment, food lunches, subsidized health insurance, subsidized housing, etc.) to work to receive those benefits. Just like welfare, this work could be any public service. If this curbs welfare use by 15%, this would save the government $150 billion each year. This would exceed the savings from the budget ax of the Fiscal Cliff.
Republicans should insist work be required before raising taxes or cutting other programs. Make it their one requirement. Delay any other budget cuts or tax changes for 2 years. See if this approach works.
My guess is that President Obama is so radical that he will reject this idea. But this idea is simple for everyone to understand. The American people will "get it" and support Republicans in this requirement. Even African Americans I know who voted for Obama, complain about people they see in their neighborhoods "doing nothing but lining up for their monthly benefits and not expecting to work"
When work was added as a requirement for welfare, welfare roles dropped. It turned out that people found work when to get the government handout they were going to have to work. The same will be true with any government benefit. People will find ways to get what they need without government help to avoid the extra work requirement.
So to Mr. Obama I say:
No Tax Increases, No Cuts in programs until there is a work requirement for every government welfare benefit. Give it two years and see how much we save. We can reduce this bloated welfare state by requiring work.