Listen to the Voters -- and Save Yourselves

FILE - This Nov. 9, 2012 file photo shows House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio gesturing during a news conference on Capitol Hi
FILE - This Nov. 9, 2012 file photo shows House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio gesturing during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. It's entirely possible that lawmakers and the White House will reach a deal to avert an avalanche of tax increases and deep cuts in government programs before a Jan. 1 deadline. To do so, however, they'll have to resolve serious political and fiscal dilemmas that have stymied them time after time, despite repeated vows to overcome them. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

It's time for House Speaker John Boehner and the Republican leadership to stop holding America's middle class hostage and instead join Democrats in saying "No" to another tax cut for the rich.

That's what voters asked for, loud and clear.

People are tired of the rich getting gifts from Washington at the expense of everyone else -- and they're also tired of brinkmanship. It was a bad idea to create a fiscal cliff, and it's an even worse idea for Republicans to threaten to drive off it and take the American middle class with them.

The cliff Boehner should be worrying about is the one over which he's pushing his party's approval rating. Gallup's most recent poll shows Republican job approval rating at 16 percent. President Obama's rating is closer to 60 percent.

Boehner doesn't understand that the Republican hard line against tax fairness and for cuts in earned benefits is not only irresponsible and wrong, it's also hugely unpopular.

Across America, 62 percent of voters want the rich to pay higher tax rates, and 73 percent want to protect Social Security and Medicare benefits from cuts.

I've said before that the fiscal cliff is a manufactured crisis, an obstacle course of Washington's own making. And yet this showdown -- if not handled right -- could do real damage to regular working families.

America's working people are already mired in financial instability and worry, as too many of us sit up late at kitchen tables trying to figure out how to meet obligations and still have a holiday season.

That's the America the Republican leadership has abandoned. That's the majority Republicans betray by obsessively opposing modest, reasonable tax policy -- that would return top tax rates to their levels in the 1990s.

Republicans refuse to acknowledge the truth -- that fair tax rates on the rich will help solve America's problems, and the rich won't even feel the pinch.

Maybe that's part of the reason a new Gallup poll finds the Republican-majority House has the lowest rating for honesty of any other professions, including car salespeople.

America works best when everybody shares the load. When the tax rates on the richest 2 percent go up, the federal deficit will begin to decline and our nation will have more resources for our priorities -- including rebuilding our infrastructure, investing in our schools and putting people back to work.

I hope the time will come soon when responsible Republicans, those who want a future for America and their political party, will listen to the electorate, step away from Boehner and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist and begin to work with Democrats to solve America's problems.

It's not too late to put America back to work. It's not too late to restore tax fairness and start to rebuild the middle class. It's not too late for the Republican leaders to save their credibility.

It's the right thing to do, and it's the smart thing to do.

Last month, Republicans got hammered across the board. That's the truth.

Despite a shocking flood of corporate cash, the party lost the presidential race, as well as seats in both the House and the Senate.

Listen to the voters. Don't cut rates again for the rich. Don't cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits.