Monday, March 4, 2013

Republicans are so not serious about budget deal, they don't even know what Obama offered.

It's frustrating to hear Obama on the campaign trail promising to not mess with Medicare and Social Security, and then a few months later, propose chained CPI and means testing.

Why hasn't anyone interviewed Obama on this turn-around? I'm dying to know. 

In the meantime, Ezra Klein wrote about the information disconnect Republicans have over knowing what spending/tax increase deal is even on the table. And it has less to do with trust. It can be explained with with Scott Walker's reason for not expanding Medicaid; he doesn't trust the government to make good on its promises. It's the fall back cop-out that's starting to get a little old. Here's a short edition of Klein's article
Obama has said he’s open to chained CPI as part of a budget deal. It’s right there on his Web site. It’s literally in bold type. But key GOP legislators have no idea Obama’s made that concession.

Mike Murphy, one of the top political consultants in the Republican Party, wrote in Time that “six magic words can unlock the door to the votes inside the Republican fortress: Some beneficiaries pay more and chained CPI, budgetary code for slightly lowering benefit increases over time.” The only problem? Obama has said all these words.
The point of Klein’s article? Republicans will come up with something to justify not taking an Obama deal. Klein went on to describe what he noticed:
Jonathan Chait begins by quoting Upton Sinclair’s famous line: “It is impossible to make a man understand something if his livelihood depends on not understanding it.” Chait then wrote, “He would come up with something – the cuts aren’t real, or the taxes are awful, or they can’t trust Obama to carry them out, or something.”

Murphy’s initial view was that to unlock GOP votes for a budget deal, Obama just needed to endorse chained CPI and more means-testing in Medicare. Then it was pointed out that Obama has endorsed means-testing in Medicare, so Murphy wondered why he didn’t endorse chained CPI as part of a deal. Then it was pointed out that Obama did endorse chained CPI, at which point Murphy called chained CPI “a gimmick,” and said Obama had to endorse raising the Medicare age, drop his demands for more revenue as part of a deal and earn back the GOP’s trust.

Recall what Chait said would happen.

A few tweets later, Murphy gave his bottom-line view, which is that if Obama wants a deal, he needs to drop all of his demands and just agree to what the GOP wants to do.

Technically, Obama did move first on spending. Over the course of 2011, Obama signed into law a set of bills that cut about $1.8 trillion from discretionary spending, and that included no tax increases at all. One of those bills, the Budget Control Act, also gave us the sequester, so you could argue they included closer to $3 trillion in spending cuts — all, again, without a single tax increase. It didn't seem to build much trust. He’s also, in this deal, “moved first” on spending.

So far, the Republicans have not proposed any further tax increases, but Obama has proposed quite a few spending cuts, including means-testing in Medicare and chained-CPI.
So what’s left for Republicans?
That’s made it important for Republicans to prove that it’s the president who is somehow holding up a deal. This had led to a lot of Republicans fanning out to explain what the president should be offering if he was serious about making a deal. Then, when it turns out that the president did offer those items, there’s more furious hand-waving about how no, actually, this is what the president needs to offer to make a deal. Then, when it turns out he’s offered most of that, too, the hand-waving stops and the truth comes out: Republicans won’t make a deal that includes further taxes, they just want to get the White House to implement their agenda in return for nothing. 

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