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Speaker's Boehner's "Plan B" strategy failed yesterday. Now it's time for Democrats to counter with "Plan C" -- a plan that's courageous enough to stand up for the middle class and the nation's most vulnerable in the face of continued Republican attempts to balance the America's checkbook on the backs of the 99%.

Paul Krugman at The New York Times reminds Democrats that they have the upper hand:

Now the game is on again — but with Mr. Obama holding a far stronger hand. He and his party won a solid victory in this year’s election. And the legislative clock is very much in their favor, too. All the Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of the month. [...] The president doesn’t hold all the cards — there are some things he and fellow Democrats want, like extended unemployment benefits and infrastructure spending, that they can’t get without some Republican cooperation. But he is in a very strong position.

[...] This is no time for a Grand Bargain, because the Republican Party, as now constituted, is just not an entity with which the president can make a serious deal. If we’re going to get a grip on our nation’s problems — of which the budget deficit is a minor part — the power of the G.O.P.’s extremists, and their willingness to hold the economy hostage if they don’t get their way, needs to be broken. And somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen in the next few days.

The Register-Guard editorial board:
Boehner’s strategy imploded when tea-party conservatives balked at any increase in taxes. Now he must choose between walking away and blaming Democrats for the subsequent plunge off the “cliff” — or working with Obama and Democrats to craft a compromise that can win the support enough of moderates in his own party to ensure passage.

Boehner should choose the latter.[...] Before the collapse of “Plan B,” there was reason to hope that the two parties were close to bipartisan deal, with the offers on deficit reductions tantalizingly close.

By cooperating with Democrats, Boehner will run the risk of a rebellion by conservatives in his caucus. That’s a risk that’s worth taking if it produces a credible short-term deal that averts an economic crisis and leads to a long-term agreement that puts the federal budget on a sustainable course and fosters economic recovery.

The Philadelphia Inquirer urges that unemployment benefits don't become the victim of D.C.'s debt fetishization:
With a $30 billion price tag through next year, the reauthorization of jobless benefits still has Obama and Republican congressional leaders divided. House Speaker John Boehner's counter-offer to the president in fiscal-cliff negotiations this week dropped the program, one of numerous spending reductions proposed as a tradeoff for his agreement to let tax rates rise on the nation's wealthiest.

In most states, including Pennsylvania, there are few high-earners who will feel the pinch of Obama's proposed tax hike. But the ranks of those relying on the federal jobless checks are substantial. That's why, as congressional Democrats have demanded, any settlement of the fiscal-cliff talks must include another extension of unemployment insurance.

The president, too, needs to remain firm in his resolve to reach a deal that looks out for those workers for whom the recession has been the toughest - the ones who lost their jobs.

The New York Times editorial board previews today's NRA's press conference:
Businesses and special-interest groups often cloak their profit motives in the garb of constitutional rights — think Big Tobacco and its opposition to restrictions on smoking in public places and bold warnings on cigarette packages. The Supreme Court has made clear that the right to bear arms is not absolute and is subject to regulations and controls. Yet the N.R.A. clings to its groundless arguments that tough regulations violate the Second Amendment. Many of those arguments serve no purpose other than to increase the sales of guns and bullets.
USA Today looks at the dramatic progress made on curtailing drunk driving and teen smoking and says that should serve as a template for a way forward on gun control:
In both smoking and drinking, progress has been driven by a blend of changing public attitudes and responsive government policies.

Could the same thing happen for guns? The moment is ripe. The slaughter of 20 children ages 6 and 7 was an event so unimaginably awful that it might have created the sort of sustained public pressure that other horrific shootings have somehow never managed to build.

Here, too, there's a valuable lesson from America's history of dealing with alcohol. Even aside from constitutional considerations, attempts to outlaw handguns won't work any better than banning booze did during Prohibition. But sensible gun restrictions seem more possible than at any time since an assault-weapons ban expired in 2004. These include a broadened ban on military-style semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity clips, and background checks on all gun sales.

The Chicago Sun-Times urges immediate action and sees positive signals from the administration that reforming the nation's gun laws will be handling with the urgency needed to save more lives from daily gun violence:
When it comes to government action, Obama already knows what to do. The nation has been debating gun-control measures for decades, forever studying and talking, but always failing to take action.

The top items on the to-do list are ready to go [...]

Will new laws wipe out all gun violence? Of course not.

But imagine, for a moment, that your child was the one saved because the Newtown shooter had a slightly less powerful gun or 20 fewer rounds of ammunition.

Today’s the day to act.

In the face of Mayan calendar myths about the world ending today, The Los Angeles Times editorial board looks at the real threat to our planet:
What's odd is that despite our apparent obsession with global catastrophe, we're surprisingly reluctant to confront the complications of actual, documented threats to our planet. Science and observation seem to indicate that real planetary crises will come more quietly and slowly but just as sadly — and perhaps more so because by that time we will have had years, if not decades, of legitimate warning. The effects of climate change may not be as dramatic as the reappearance of Satan on Earth, but they are a lot more imminent. Scientists around the planet have urged political leaders to counter the threat with a variety of conservation measures, some of which we have pursued, some of which we've ignored. Meanwhile, global temperatures are already up, ice masses are melting, polar bears are being stranded on diminishing frozen habitats.

Nuclear annihilation, which would happen a lot faster and with a more cinematic bang, continues to be a possibility as more countries seek nuclear weapons or the material to make them. Reining in nuclear proliferation — and controlling those weapons that already exist — is complicated and controversial but surely worth fighting for.

It may be more fun to consider theatrical endgames and far-fetched predictions of doom, but really, shouldn't we be concentrating instead on resolving the complex but scarily real scenarios facing us? At least then, Earthlings might stand a chance of surviving.

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