The “Life of Brian” skit that the battle over avoiding the “fiscal cliff” (aka Austerity Bomb) continued today as congressional Republicans wrote a letter to Obama that amounted to “25 Shekels? My grandfather Ronnie would spin in his grave! I’ll give you four.”
The offer made the following proposals to achieve $2.2 trillion in new deficit reductions over 10 years:
* $800 billion in new revenue through tax reform;
* unspecified healthcare program savings of $600 billion;
* other savings from changes to unspecified mandatory spending programs of $300 billion;
* tying cost-of-living increases for federal benefit programs to the Consumer Price Index to get savings of $200 billion;
* and further unspecified savings to domestic spending programs of $300 billion.
Lots of stuff unspecified there, but we all know who’d get hurt most – and it’s not the rich. Republicans rejected President Obama’s call to raise tax rates for the wealthy while issuing this call for cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other safety net programs. They had a chance to prove they weren’t purely on the side of the elite 1% and blew it, backing continued tax cuts that will cost non-rich Americans $900 billion over the next decade.
As David Atkins writes, Republicans are writing the White House’ ads for Obama.
The Obama administration’s next move was “Four shekels. Four shekels? I’ve got a poor and sick family called Americans to support!” Duly done.
The White House rapidly panned the House GOP offer to settle the fiscal cliff, with Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer saying it doesn’t “meet the test of balance.
“In fact, it actually promises to lower rates for the wealthy and sticks the middle class with the bill,” Pfeiffer said. “While the President is willing to compromise to get a significant, balanced deal and believes that compromise is readily available to Congress, he is not willing to compromise on the principles of fairness and balance that include asking the wealthiest to pay higher rates.”
Unless Obama wants to play the part of Brian and agree to six shekels, we’re headed for more haggling towards a middle that’ll still unduly hurt the poor while giving away some extra pocket-lining to the rich. Ugh. And the Right calls the man a socialist.
I’m highly suspicious that there are people on the Democratic side who would be perfectly willing to be backed into this corner. They’ve demagogued the deficit into a crisis worthy of an invasion from a foreign planet at this point so whether the cuts come as a result of a Grand Bargain or a series of “showdowns” doesn’t really matter. There is a tremendous amount of pressure to gut “entitlements” from a whole bunch of center and center right elites to do it. The biggest challenge for the White House would be how to frame this as a part of their vaunted “balanced approach” and I’m not sure it would be that easy. I’d be very interested to see if the Republicans are willing to give them that.
Anyway, grain of salt on all of this. They’re posturing in public and dealing in private and we really can’t know what’s up from these reports. I continue to believe that the baseline for negotiations is the 2011 debt ceiling agreements, with the major hang up being the tax rates. I still suspect that everything we’re seeing is in service of making that happen in a way that the Republicans can stomach. Seriously hoping I’m wrong.
I’m hoping Digby is wrong on this too, but I don’t believe she is.