NEC Director Gene Sperling has been a supporter of the deficit-hawk side of the Obama administration team, which I've been very unhappy about, because of what might be cut in their grand bargaining scheme. But yesterday he turned my head (in a good way) with his no-nonsense approach and rebuke to Paul Ryan's ridiculous Randian budget, this time while speaking at another Pete G. Peterson deficit do-dah.
Anyone who thought the White House and House Republicans were close to a deficit-reduction deal only needed to sit through five minutes of the 2011 Fiscal Summit held by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation in Washington.
Those would be the five minutes when House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) wrapped up his wide-ranging remarks and when White House National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling began his talk.“I want to point out how isolated the House Republicans are,” he said. “Serious people doing serious discussions do not take an absolutists position that you cannot have a penny of revenue.”
He said Mr. Ryan has “put himself in a box” with his unwillingness to raise tax revenue. He said this forced Republicans to call for “very severe cuts” that if “explored” by Americans “they would not be proud of.”
Mr. Sperling attacked the House Republican proposals to overhaul Medicare and Medicaid, saying that the $770 billion in savings Republicans wanted from changing Medicaid would be unnecessary if Republicans would agree to roll back certain tax cuts.
“You can’t say to anybody who would be affected by that, that we have to do that, that we have no choice,” he said. “The fact is that all of those savings would be unnecessary if you were not funding the high income tax cuts.”
He also said that Mr. Ryan was wrong when he said that raising taxes as part of a broader package would hurt economic growth.
“Everything he said I heard nine million times in 1993,” said Mr. Sperling, who was NEC deputy director in the Clinton administration and later became Mr. Clinton’s national economic adviser.
With all the deficit blabber coming from the Beltway -- from the Village press to the Cat Food Commission to the Gang of Six and then to VP Biden's group -- I, like many, have been waiting for the shoe to eventually drop. And Medicaid seemed like the most vulnerable target to be part of some grand-ass bargain proposal. NEC Sperling hit Paul Ryan hard over the head just by using the Bush Tax Cuts alone. He makes other important points as well.
This is really important. Sperling has been one of the foremost proponents of the Grand Bargain and this pretty unequivocally takes Medicaid cuts off the table.
It will always be vulnerable --- whenever the Republicans get the chance they will try to cut Medicaid, especially once it is expanded to cover more people. They will be desperate to call it a welfare program that somehow is keeping people from being productive members of society. But if the Dems can at least protect what exists now and get the expansion enacted it will be harder. Sperling's comments were terribly important in that it positioned it as a safety net program that helps the middle class as much as the poor and I'm not sure most people know that.
You rarely hear much about Medicare, but a huge number of families across America use it. It's an important part of the safety net for our seniors. You know, Republicans used the bogus " death panels" talking point to attack health-care reform, but what Paul Ryan proposed in reality are real death panels, because if anything like his ideas are ever implemented, the consequences for our seniors will be catastrophic.
d-day weighs in:
Sperling apparently also said “From a values perspective, we should be very deeply troubled by the Medicaid cuts in the House Republican plan.”
This is excellent. If the White House fights for Medicaid rather than wanting to gain “credibility” through a deal, it cuts off that avenue of escape for Republicans. Safety-net programs could then get untouched and deferred until after the 2012 elections. This would be the best-case scenario at this point.