President Barack Obama should not give in to Republicans in dealing with the looming fiscal cliff, according to Laurinburg businessman Walter Rogers.
Rogers shared that opinion with White House aides during a visit last week to Washington. Rogers was a part of a delegation of 45 civic leaders from North Carolina asked to the White House to discuss the impending fiscal cliff — the tax hikes and spending cuts likely to be enacted next year if Congress and the president fail to agree on an alternate course of action.
The discussion, held on Thursday, was started by Jon Carson, director of the White House office of public engagement, and continued by his staff.
Rogers, who also serves as North Carolina 8th District Black Leadership Caucus chairman, said that the group reached a consensus that President Obama should not capitulate to a Republican-controlled Congress.
“One of the things we talked about particularly was the fact that there was some concern that the president himself might decide to cave,” Rogers said. “He has been very conciliatory when it comes to working with Congress over the last two years, and he really has not benefited from it. There were a lot of people who said ‘Mr. President, this time we want you to do differently. Do not cave to this crowd, because you cannot cave enough to satisfy them.’”
From where Rogers sits, the prospects of Congress and President Obama reaching a solution to the problem of the fiscal cliff do not look bright.
“If it’s anything like it’s been for the last year or two, it’s been pretty much that if the Republican party doesn’t get it the way they want it, they just go into a stalemate,” Rogers said. “This time, the Democratic party is inclined to say that they might not have the numbers, but the president still has the pen. So, if we don’t work it out and if you come up with something that’s not agreeable, it’s dead on arrival.”
Rogers said that, although the idea of a fiscal cliff sounds dire, the economy may correct itself while allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire without intervention may force legislators to compromise.
“It’s not like a cliff, it’s more like a wave,” he said. “That economic situation that may be recognized effectively in two to three months will probably level out itself. There are people who are calling it a cliff because they want you to feel like it is a dramatic thing, and if you don’t do something you’re going to come to the point where you are going straight down. It is not as bad as perceived.”
The Tax Policy Center has estimated that, if the “fiscal cliff” is not averted, most middle -class families will face a $2,000 increase in taxes annually. Rogers said that that may not be unfair relative to the tax increases faced by large companies.
“The overall conversation is that the average family’s taxes might go up $2,200, but if you are a corporation, and that’s where the money is now, let it go,” he said. “You might have to pay $100 a month, but how many thousands will they have to pay a month? I can give up a dime if they’re going to give up a quarter.”
The majority of the discussion focused on the effect of the economy upon the middle class, with little conversation regarding those in poverty.
“The concern and focus seemed to be on the middle class, but there is something like 1.5 million below the poverty level in this state,” said Rogers. “Nobody mentioned them.”
Rogers also spoke of Scotland County’s economic plight in a discussion that trended toward an east-west dichotomy.
“They talked about western North Carolina and they talked about eastern North Carolina, and I brought to there attention the fact that there is a south central North Carolina and, if you look real close, what you will probably find is Laurinburg, who has had the highest unemployment rate for the biggest portion of the last five years,” he said.
Rogers is the owner of Rogers Beauty and Barber Supply in Laurinburg as well as several other local businesses.