There's an unnerving report in The Politico about the fiscal cliff deal being bandied around. It's framed as being the framework of a deal.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told “Morning Joe” on Tuesday that he could see $400 billion in entitlement cuts. That’s the floor, according to Democratic aides, and it could go higher in the final give and take. The vast majority of the savings, and perhaps all of it, will come from Medicare, through a combination of means-testing, raising the retirement age and other “efficiencies” to be named later. It is possible Social Security gets tossed into the mix, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to fight that, if he has to yield on other spending fronts. Democrats want most Medicare and other entitlement savings to kick in between 10 and 20 years from now, which will make some Republicans choke. Democrats will point to the precedent set by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) of pushing most mandatory savings off until a decade from now.
This report makes it appear that raising the retirement age of Medicare is a done deal. Remember, the President was willing to give up the store, the candy and any self respect he had as a Democrat when he had accepted a deal with John Boehner during the debt ceiling crisis which later was rejected.
That night, Jackson and Loper sent over a three-page proposal based on the discussions; in exchange for agreeing to the $800 billion in additional revenue, they asked for more than $450 billion in combined cuts to Medicare andMedicaid over the next decade alone, as well as a series of changes to Social Security, including a new formula for calculating benefits and a higher retirement age.There was no question that the framework negotiated by Obama, Daley and Geithner — and laid out in the Republicans’ offer sheet — unsettled the stomachs of some White House aides. No one liked the idea of acceding to Medicare cuts, and most didn’t think Social Security should be part of the deal at all. (Democratic orthodoxy holds that Social Security has nothing to do with the federal debt, since it generates its own revenue from the payroll tax.) But Obama’s senior aides, including the political adviser David Plouffe, had come to believe that a grand bargain, however imperfect, was preferable to a smaller deal — and far preferable to a debt default.
Now that the President won reelection, he's in a much stronger position then he was after the tea partiers crashed DC. So why is he wiling to listen to ridiculous earned benefits/entitlement cuts? Oh wait, he's not listening to them because Republicans aren't proposing them or anything at all at this point.
And the particular Medicare problem isn’t that Democrats are refusing the GOP’s proposed Medicare cuts. It’s that Republicans are refusing to name their Medicare cuts.
Politico quotes a “top Democratic official” who paints the picture simply: “Rob Nabors [the White House negotiator], has been saying: ‘This is what we want on revenues on the down payment. What’s your guys’ ask on the entitlement side?’ And they keep looking back at us and saying: ‘We want you to come up with that and pitch us.’ That’s not going to happen.”
Boehner and Co. want Obama to do his job for them. He figures that he can blame Medicare cuts on Democrats after that even though the GOP would vote to pass them. It's the same tactic that Romney/Ryan used during the campaign. They would never be specific about any tax cuts, tax code loop holes or anything else for that matter.
That’s left Republicans in a peculiar negotiating position: They know they want “Medicare reform” — indeed, they frequently identify Medicare reform as the key to their support for a deal — but aside from premium support, they don’t quite know what they mean by it, and they’re afraid to find out. The solution they’ve come up with, such as it is, is to insist that the Obama administration needs to be the one to propose Medicare cuts.
Ezra finishes with this.
Republican policy types need to start thinking about what they want to do to Medicare, and quick.
Well, I'm glad the White House is refusing to play that game so far, but if what's been reported so far during this fiscal cliff nonsense then exactly why does Boehner have to be specific? He knows the President wants a deal before Christmas so he's feels he can sit back and wait because even Boehner knows that the cliff is really a slope and nothing bad will happen on January 1. The American people do not want to see the ages to the social safety nets raised at all.
This is a time when President Obama can shift the attitudes of more millions of people if he pushes back against severe and cruel cuts to the safety nets and demanding raising tax rates since he won reelection with a message of higher tax rates. It's a twofer. First, it's the right thing to do economically and morally for the economy and Americans. Two, it would further move the anti-tax GOP position that has dominated DC further to the left than its been for a long time. This could then be built upon with the next wave of Democrats coming to Washington when the results from these moves prove positive for the President. I'm not holding my breath on it, but we can push for it..
And looky here. The White House did open the bidding in the fiscal cliff and Republicans aren't pleased.
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner presented the House speaker, John A. Boehner, a detailed proposal on Thursday to avert the year-end fiscal crisis with $1.6 trillion in tax increases over 10 years, $50 billion in immediate stimulus spending, home mortgage refinancing and a permanent end to Congressional control over statutory borrowing limits. The proposal, loaded with Democratic priorities and short on detailed spending cuts, met strong Republican resistance. In exchange for locking in the $1.6 trillion in added revenues, President Obama embraced the goal of finding $400 billion in savings from Medicare and other social programs to be worked out next year, with no guarantees.
He did propose some upfront cuts in programs like farm price supports, but did not specify an amount or any details. And senior Republican aides familiar with the offer said those initial spending cuts might be outweighed by spending increases, including at least $50 billion in infrastructure spending, mortgage relief, an extension of unemployment insurance and a deferral of automatic cuts to physician reimbursements under Medicare.
I have to say I'm pleasantly surprised that they came out this strong. Maybe they listened to some Democrats on the hill who said this:
Liberals have drawn a hard line against entitlement cuts and $400 billion is a lot of money, so some progressives are not pleased with the idea.
Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, the chairman of the 77-member Progressive Caucus, told Salon that his members would not support entitlement cuts. “Any agreement to meet our end-of-the-year deadlines will need a large portion of the House Democratic Caucus to pass. Progressives will not support any deal that cuts benefits for families and seniors who rely on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to put food on the table or cover their health costs,” he said.
Outside groups took an even tougher line.
Liberal groups are coming out strong as are many liberal bloggers, but we have to keep the pressure on.