Washington has Grand Bargain fever, again. Thanks to the sequestration, Republican government-shrinking mania and Barack Obama’s apparently sincere desire to get some sort of huge long-term debt deal done, the Grand Bargain is looking more possible than at any point since the heady days of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility.
For some reason, the options for dealing with sequestration — a self-inflicted made-up austerity crisis — are being purposefully and pointlessly limited to a) spending cuts, either those in sequestration or different ones, or b) spending cuts and tax increases. “Let’s just not do this, everyone” is rarely presented as a viable option. Instead, the single best end result, according to lots of pundits, Democrats and even Republicans, is tthe Mythical Grand Bargain.
This is awful news, for most people. A “grand bargain” is not going to be good. But after Barack Obama had fancy dinners with some Republicans last week, everyone is again hopeful. The president is hopeful. John Boehner is hopeful. David Gergen is probably hopeful. They can all taste the Bargain. Ooh, it’ll be so great when we get that Bargain!
The Grand Bargain is revered, among the Sunday Show set, as a goal essentially for its own sake. Its Grandness is its point. The thought of the parties coming together, agreeing on a mutually unpleasant compromise involving great political “sacrifice” (symbolic sacrifice for the politicians, likely eventual actual sacrifice for the constituents), warms the cockles of the Beltway Establishmentarian’s heart. If liberals and conservatives can’t stand the deal, all the better, even if one or both sides have perfectly valid reasons for blanching. The Bargain must, by necessity, reduce the deficit by “reining in entitlements.” “Entitlements” means Social Security and Medicare, two very popular and successful programs designed to keep retired people alive. Social Security and Medicare “reforms” that make both programs less generous are among the least popular policy proposals in America today, but both parties — at least, the leaders of both parties — support them (rhetorically). Cutting these programs is probably the single highest priority of the tiny centrist elite, and it has been for years, excepting the usual run-ups to our various wars. Part of the elaborate theater of Performing Seriousness in Washington is claiming that “everyone agrees” that the cuts are urgent and necessary, while also bemoaning that no politicians are “brave” enough to support them.
In an email, Koch brothers’ front group, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), sent congratulations to Republicans and their supporters around the country for helping push sequester cuts AFP says are “an important step forward for economic growth.” The email continued, “Americans for Prosperity thanks Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans for standing up to President Obama and making sure the $85 billion in much-needed sequester spending cuts took effect,” and it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Koch brothers and Republicans own the sequester and are giddy at the prospect of a recession and killing millions of jobs. One aspect of sequester cuts little mentioned is that the devastating $85 billion for 2013 is just the beginning of greater domestic spending cuts, devastating effects on anti-poverty programs, Medicare, and without cessation, the end of recovery.
The sequester is a ten year plan that cuts $1.2 trillion across the board, and because they began in March, $85 billion is about 70% of the next nine years of cuts coming in at about $123.88 billion every year. It spells the end of recovery because experts estimate that by the end of 2013, $85 billion in cuts means nearly a million jobs will vanish, and GDP will fall between .7% and 1.7% in the first year a
President Obama starts his second term with a clear upper hand over GOP leaders on issues from guns to immigration that are likely to dominate the year, a USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll finds. On the legislation rated most urgent — cutting the budget deficit — even a majority of Republican voters endorse Obama’s approach of seeking tax hikes as well as spending cuts.
The survey underscores the quandary for the GOP as it debates the party’s message in the wake of disappointing losses last November for the White House and in the Senate.
Now just 22% of Americans, nearly a record low, consider themselves Republicans.
President Obama’s cheerful, mocking statement enraged Republicans. But the bigger problem is he said something Republican leaders have been trying to hide from their members. Obama said, clearly, that if the GOP wants more spending cuts later, they’re going to need to hand over more taxes, too. In fact, he said it repeatedly.
The GOP had good reason to hate Obama’s remarks today. (Larry Downing — Reuters)
He made the point when talking about the sequester:
I want to make clear that any agreement we have to deal with these automatic spending cuts that are being threatened for next month, those also have to be balanced, because, remember, my principle always has been let’s do things in a balanced, responsible way. And that means the revenues have to be part of the equation in turning off the sequester and eliminating these automatic spending cuts, as well as spending cuts.
And then he made it again when talking about Medicare cuts:
House Republicans today, in addition to voting on Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) so-called “Plan B” — which extends the Bush tax cuts on income up to $1 million — will also vote on a bill to replace the spending cuts scheduled for the end of the year.
As The Hill reported, the bill closely mirrors a measure passed by House Republicans in May known as the “The Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012.” (Here is the underlying legislation, which will include these minor tweaks.) That bill voids both the military spending cuts and domestic spending cuts set to take place in 2013 and replaces them with a host of cuts to domestic spending, including:
- Cuts to food stamps that could knock millions of low-income Americans out of the program;
- Cuts to Meals on Wheels, a program that delivers meals to seniors or other individuals who are unable to prepare their own food;
- Cuts funding to health exchanges that will be created under Obamacare and funding for Medicaid included in the same law;
- Cuts to the Dodd-Frank financial reform law that will yield no cost savings, but will make bailouts of big banks more likely;
- Denying the Child Tax Credit to the parents of American children, if the parents are undocumented immigrants.
President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner are continuing their talks, but key officials in both parties now believe that Washington will be unable to avoid some mix of the tax increases and automatic spending cuts mandated next month by the austerity measures known as the “fiscal cliff.”
Senior Democratic and Republican officials say the best-case scenario will be for a less ambitious deal to extend middle-class tax cuts and forestall tax hikes on most Americans.
But such a deal would still set in motion a series of steep spending cuts at some federal agencies and allow key tax provisions to expire, raising taxes for many. “I don’t know if we fall off the cliff, but I think we’re at least going to jump out of a tree,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).
That assessment hasn’t stopped Obama and Boehner (R-Ohio) from trying to reach a broader pact before year’s end. The two spoke by phone Friday afternoon, after news broke of the massacre at an elementary school in Connecticut, and officials in both parties confirmed that Boehner was considering allowing tax rates to rise for those earning more than $1 million annually, in exchange for cuts in entitlement programs.
The GOP: they are either too fearful or too lazy to spell out exactly what they want.
But any deal will include much more than those top-line items. It will also include deficit-reduction and tax reform targets for Congress to hit in the coming months. That gets to a deeper problem in the negotiations: When you drill down to the granular policy level, Republicans aren’t sure what Republicans want. Democrats complain that the Republican offers are bare of policy detail. They lay down targets — say, $600 billion in health savings — but say nothing about how those targets will be achieved.
Republican staffers admit that they need more time to come up with specific cuts — and, for that matter, specific tax reforms. But they argue they’ll have that time. Any deal is expected to include a two-stage process: Targets for spending cuts and tax revenues now, combined with consequences that force Congress to hit those targets later.
The administration is a bit agog at this approach: If you don’t know how you’re going to hit your target, how can you possibly know whether your target is reasonable? It’s like buying a house with the expectation that you’ll figure out how to pay for it later.
President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner met Sunday at the White House to discuss the ongoing negotiations over the impending “fiscal cliff,” the first meeting between just the two leaders since they both won re-election.
Spokesmen for both Obama and Boehner said they agreed to not release details of the conversation, but emphasized that the lines of communication remain open.
The meeting comes as the White House and Congress try to break an impasse over finding a way to stop a combination of automatic tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to kick in at the beginning of next year.
Obama met in November with Boehner, as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The president spoke by telephone with Reid and in person with Pelosi on Friday. The president is traveling to Redford, Mich., on Monday to promote his agenda in a speech to workers at an engine factory; auto workers helped Obama win Michigan in last month’s election.
Obama has been pushing higher tax rates on the wealthiest Americans as one way to reduce the deficit — a position Boehner and other House Republicans have been steadfastly against. Republicans are demanding steeper cuts in costly government entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.
The GOP is still going after Medicare, Medicaid, ACA, and even Social Security instead of raising some taxes on the uber-rich. When they finally do show their cards we find that they are the same dog earred ones that failed to win the last hand.
Republicans want to break the social contract by taking from working and middle class people who have paid towards that contract all of their adult lives.Republicans want to break the social contract by taking from working and middle class people who have paid towards that contract all of their adult lives. ‘Entitlement’ is now a dirty word to the GOP and it did not used to be that way.
Boehner wants to take from hard working Americans so that his elite buddies don’t have to pay the tax rate they did during the Clinton years. He wants to do that at the end of a decade that saw corporate and financial profits raise to stellar heights while in terms of real dollars workers regressed in pay. His playing jiggery pokery with how inflation is measured isn’t revenue but instead costs Social Security recipients future cost of living increases that insure their benefits at least keep pace with inflation.
It’s neither right nor fair, call your house representatives and let them know what you think. Write them a letter. Write a letter to the editor. Do whatever you can, because once again the filthy rich are shucking their burdens onto the backs of middle class Americans.
Republicans are proposing a “fiscal cliff” plan that revives ideas from failed budget talks with President Barack Obama last year, calling for raising the eligibility age for Medicare, lowering cost-of-living hikes for Social Security benefits and bringing in $800 billion in higher tax revenue.
The counter to a White House plan last week relies more on politically sensitive spending cuts and would raise half the $1.6 trillion in revenue proposed by Obama over the coming decade.
The 10-year, $2.2 trillion proposal from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, resembles a framework similar to what Boehner supported last year, but Obama is pressing for additional tax increases and appears to be balking at spending cuts discussed in those talks and since.
Administration officials from Obama on down say it’ll take money from raising tax rates on the rich — instead of GOP proposals to simply curb their deductions — to win Obama’s approval of any plan to avoid the “fiscal cliff.”