Honestly, I can’t recall ever seeing such childish behavior before in politics. The Republicans in Congress remind me of three-year-olds throwing tantrums because things aren’t going their way. Yesterday, the White House made a proposal for averting the so-called “fiscal cliff,” a fake crisis that the Republicans themselves created last year during the battle over raising the debt ceiling (which has never before been controversial).
CBS News reports on the Republicans hissy fits:
The White House made an offer to House Republicans today to avert the fiscal cliff that Republican aides familiar with the talks panned as “a joke”, “an insult” and “a complete break from reality.”
A Republican aide familiar with the offer that was presented to House Speaker John Boehner by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and White House congressional liason Rob Nabors confirmed that the $4 trillion package would raise $1.6 trillion in tax revenue up front. Republicans call that number too high and extreme to be offering two weeks into negotiations with a just a month left before the deadline.
The basics of the offer were an immediate return to the Clinton-era tax rates for income over $250,000; cuts in “entitlements, primarily Medicare sometime in the future; $50 billion in stimulus through infrastructure spending as well as extending unemployment insurance and the payroll tax holiday; and an agreement on raising the debt ceiling again. Mitch McConnell let it be known that he laughed out loud at Geithner’s proposal, and John Boehner and others whined about how mean Democrats are.
“Unfortunately many Democrats continue to rule out spending cuts that must be part of any significant agreement that will reduce our deficit” [….]
One Republican aide expressed outrage that the White House would ask for that with no reforms attached at all. Earlier today, Boehner said, that “there is a lot of things that I have wanted in my life but almost all of them had a price tag attached to them.
“If we’re going to talk about the debt limit in this, then there is going to be some price tag associated with it.”
So Republicans must be willing to pay a price too, right? Here’s what McConnell said about that to the Wall Street Journal:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wanted changes to safety-net programs that focus on altering eligibility requirements, and suggested that if Democrats agreed both sides could move closer to a budget deal to avert the fiscal cliff.
In an interview in his Capitol Hill office, Mr. McConnell (R., Ky.) said if the White House agrees to changes such as higher Medicare premiums for the wealthy, an increase in the Medicare eligibility age and a slowing of cost-of-living increases for programs like Social Security, Republicans would agree to include more tax revenue in the deal, though not from higher tax rates.
“Those are the kinds of things that would get Republicans interested in new revenue,” Mr. McConnell said.
So, let me get this straight. Republicans want to force senior citizens to wait longer to get Medicare–meaning many older Americans would have no health coverage, since Obamacare permits insurance companies to charge older people three times as much as younger people. They also want to change the COLA for Social Security, which would, in effect, be a cut in benefits.
In return Republicans would accept mythical, unspecified “revenues” but no rate increases on the richest Americans. That sounds like a pretty bad deal to me, especially since President Obama ran for reelection on increasing the top tax rates and Democratic, Independent, and even Republican voters made it clear that they did not want chances to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security.
Since Obama won reelection quite handily, it’s hardly surprising that he isn’t offering specific cuts to social safety net programs. Why should he? Whichever party is responsible for cutting these programs is going to pay a significant price in 2014 and beyond. The White House attitude is that if Boehner and McConnell want such cuts, they should damn well spell out what they have in mind–not expect the President to do it for them.
In response to the tantrums, Ezra Klein writes:
We’re seeing two things here. One is that the negotiations aren’t going well. When one side begins leaking the other side’s proposals, that’s typically a bad sign. The other is that Republicans are frustrated at the new Obama they’re facing: The Obama who refuses to negotiate with himself.
That’s what you’re really seeing in this “proposal.” Previously, Obama’s pattern had been to offer plans that roughly tracked where he thought the compromise should end up. The White House’s belief was that by being solicitous in their policy proposals, they would win goodwill on the other side, and even if they didn’t, the media would side with them, realizing they’d sought compromise and been rebuffed. They don’t believe that anymore.
Perhaps the key lesson the White House took from the last couple of years is this: Don’t negotiate with yourself. If Republicans want to cut Medicare, let them propose the cuts. If they want to raise revenue through tax reform, let them identify the deductions. If they want deeper cuts in discretionary spending, let them settle on a number. And, above all, if they don’t like the White House’s preferred policies, let them propose their own.
It’s looking more and more like Obama is willing to go over the fiscal cliff and leave the Republicans holding the bag. Polls show it’s Republicans who will be blamed for the consequences.
The funniest Republican whining today came from Peggy Noonan, who really should stop commenting on politics and become a romance novelist.
At a news conference Thursday, Mr. Boehner looked frustrated. In fact, he looked exactly the way he looked at the end of the debt ceiling crisis in the summer of 2011—like someone who wanted a deal, was willing to gamble to get it, and failed. There has been “no substantive progress” toward an agreement, he said. In a meeting with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and in a Wednesday night phone call with the president, he saw no willingness to reform or cut entitlement spending. What about an increase in tax rates? “Revenues are on the table.”
In fact the Democratic position on entitlements seems to have hardened.
Which makes all kinds of sense, because everyone knows that voters do not want changes to their
“entitlements.” earned benefits. Obama has figured that out, and so have Republicans. Neither side wants to be the one to make proposals for specific cuts in what’s left of the New Deal programs.
But Noonan doesn’t get it anymore than Boehner and McConnell do.
You watch and wonder: Why does it always have to be cliffs with this president? Why is it always a high-stakes battle? Why doesn’t he shrewdly re-enact Ronald Reagan, meeting, arguing and negotiating in good faith with Speaker Tip O’Neill, who respected very little of what the president stood for and yet, at the end of the day and with the country in mind, could shake hands and get it done? Why is there never a sense with Mr. Obama that he understands the other guys’ real position?
Um….maybe because Tip O’Neill was actually willing and able to negotiate in good faith, which Boehner is in thrall to Tea Party crazies?
It’s not as if Mr. Boehner and the Republicans wouldn’t deal. They’ve been weakened and they know it. A year ago they hoped winning the Senate and the presidency would break the stasis. They won neither. Mr. Obama not only was re-elected, it wasn’t that close, it was a clean win. If the president was clear about anything throughout the campaign, it was that he wanted to raise taxes on those he calls the rich. So you might say that a majority of the American people just endorsed that move….
The president would only benefit from showing he has the command and capability to meet, argue, press and come to agreement. It would be heartening to the country to see this, and would impress the world. And the Republicans would like to get it done.
OMG, that’s hysterical! “Those he calls the rich” Peggy says. The rest of her piece is a complaint about how difficult it is to make ends meet with an income of *only* $250,000. She even claims that raising taxes on those she doesn’t think are rich will hurt the economy.
Mr. Obama wants to raise tax rates on those earning $250,000 or more, as we know, on the assumption that they are “the rich.” But if you are a man with a wife and two kids making that salary and living in Westfield, N.J., in no way do you experience yourself to be rich, because you’re not. You pay federal payroll and income taxes, state income and sales taxes and local property taxes, and after the mortgage, food and commuting costs you don’t have much to spare.
Tighten the squeeze on that couple, and they’ll change how they live. They’ll stop sending the struggling son to a neighborhood tutor, they’ll stop going out to dinner once a week, they’ll cut off the baby sitter, fire the guy who once a month does yard work, and hold back on new clothes. Also the guy will peruse employment ads in Florida and Texas, potentially removing from blue-state New Jersey his heartening, taxpaying presence.
Oh boo hoo hoo! I’m sick to death of this shit. You lost the fucking election. You spend four years refusing to cooperate with this president in an all-out effort to deny him reelection. Your plan failed. The people have spoken. Deal with it.