The Making of Fiscal Cliff-Hanger: The Movie
Well! now we’re making progress! Two “non-offers” sit precariously on the Fiscal Tiff table, both have been summarily dissed, so we can cut right to the political posturing, dog-whistling and bone-throwing of “serious negotiations” and still make it home for the holidays.
President Obama opened with a strong hand based, remarkably, on his campaign promises, stunning Republicans who fully expected him to cower in the face of their totally awesome ability to hold onto the House of Gerrymanderers. After several days of derision and tsk-tsking the President’s offer, Republicans, true to their work avoidance ethic, dragged the Simpson-Bowles plan out of the recycle bin, gussied it up with a new cover page and submitted it to the White House as a counter offer.
Now, just to refresh our memories on the collossal flop that was the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Commission . . . it was a noble experiment in bipartisanship, but, at the end of the day, these guys couldn’t gin up enough votes to schedule a formal presentation of their “plan” to Congress. And calling the Simpson-Bowles artifact a “Plan” is shamelessly gilding the lily because it is lighter on detail than Mitt Romney’s campaign promises.
Simpson-Bowles failed out of the gate and is best forgotten. As such, it makes perfect sense that certain Republican pseudo-policy wonks, with the help of a substance-starved media, elevated Simpson-Bowles to a tribal fetish and were bound to resurrect it at their earliest possible convenience.
So it is that Mr. Bowles, appalled by the thought of the zombie report that bears his name reappearing on the president’s desk was forced to issue an immediate press release detailing what a boneheaded idea Boehner & Co. had come up with, saying “circumstances have changed since” his remarks to the super committee in Nov. 2011. Well, now, I’d say that’s an accurate assessment!
Bowles went on to say:
In my testimony before the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, I simply took the mid-point of the public offers put forward during the negotiations to demonstrate where I thought a deal could be reached at that time. The Joint Select Committee failed to reach a deal, and circumstances have changed since then. It is up to negotiators to figure out where the middle ground is today.
While I’m flattered the Speaker would call something ‘the Bowles plan, the approach outlined in the letter Speaker Boehner sent to the President does not represent the Simpson-Bowles plan, nor is it the Bowles plan.
Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), the top Democrat on the House Ways & Means Committee threw in his two-cents:
Speaker Boehner’s letter to the President today distorts the work of the Bowles-Simpson Commission, which assumed the expiration of the high-end Bush tax cuts and the continuation of the middle class tax cuts. Within that framework, House Republicans should join with Democrats in passing the Senate bill this week. Republicans remain in a state of denial. The recent election was not a status quo election but rather a validation of the President’s often-stated position on taxes. We must remain optimistic that Republicans will accept reality and not push our nation over the cliff.
Yes, I suppose we must . . .
President Obama along with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi gave Boehner’s counteroffer a big White House razzberry. The President actually responded via White House spokesman, Dan Pfeiffer:
The Republican letter released today does not meet the test of balance. In fact, it actually promises to lower rates for the wealthy and sticks the middle class with the bill. Their plan includes nothing new and provides no details on which deductions they would eliminate, which loopholes they will close or which Medicare savings they would achieve. Independent analysts who have looked at plans like this one have concluded that middle class taxes will have to go up to pay for lower rates for millionaires and billionaires.
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. President Obama believes – and the American people agree – that the economy works best when it is grown from the middle out, not from the top down. Until the Republicans in Congress are willing to get serious about asking the wealthiest to pay slightly higher tax rates, we won’t be able to achieve a significant, balanced approach to reduce our deficit our nation needs.
Meanwhile, Speaker Boehner also heard from his right flank who weren’t crazy about his counteroffer for different reasons. Americans For Prosperity, generously funded by the Koch Bros, rustled up their policy director, James Valvo, who had this to say about Boehner’s plan:
Speaker Boehner’s counteroffer today offers disappointingly small spending reductions. After immediately giving in to higher taxes following the election, the Speaker has now followed up by pulling the best parts of the House budget off the table. The only way to solve the nation’s fiscal woes is to reform the runaway entitlement programs and government spending. It is disturbing that this proposal may give up the entire FY2013 spending reductions agreed to in the BCA.
[BCA is the Budget Control Act, which was passed in August 2011 and got us here to the cliff. The cuts, which are projected to total $1.2 trillion, are scheduled to begin in 2013 and end in 2021, evenly divided over the nine-year period.]
One might say that Speaker Boehner is between Barack and a hard place . . . (rimshot).
My hero, Charles Pierce of Esquire summed the whole business up quite nicely, saying
. . . I’m sure Boehner accounts himself clever for throwing Bowles’s discreet granny-starving back at the president . . . As was made clear today, the bad idea that was Simpson-Bowles, and the really bad ideas that Simpson-Bowles produced, are now John Boehner’s ideas. They are the ideas presented by the losers . . . It’s not every day one of your primary political adversaries steps up to take credit for your screw-up.