Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Cliff Minuet Moves Towards Crescendo


A blame game for the GOP and another bungled opportunity for Obama, the Grand Bargain-- despite Boehner's inability to control his own caucus-- is heading into the melodramatic end-stage. People overseas take this far more seriously than Americans do and for media consumers abroad, it looks like we're actually approaching armageddon. Many low-info Americans actually do too, though others are already rolling their eyes and at all the obviously staged game-playing. I'm guessing there'll be some noisy stock market mini-crash if the whole thing doesn't get wrapped up by tomorrow morning.

But are Republicans willing to start facing reality? Maybe. Leaving a GOP conference meeting a few hours ago McCain told reporters that the Republicans are finally dropping chained CPI from their fiscal cliff proposal, ironically one of the worst reactionary anti-social ideas that they had already gotten Braveheart Barack Obama to accept. "CPI has to be off the table because it's not a winning argument to say benefits for seniors versus tax breaks for rich people," said McCain "We need to take CPI off the table-- that's not part of the negotiations-- because we can't win an argument that has Social Security for seniors versus taxes for the rich." I'm sure they'll come up with something just as bad to try but this is a step in the right direction-- and maybe McCain can even get his hissy/spitty little gay friend from South Carolina to act like an adult. Schumer told ABC-TV viewers this morning that he thinks the chances are better than even that the Senate will come up with a deal by tomorrow. And Republican lame duck obstructionist Jon Kyl said he doesn't disagree. Oh, the drama!
"I've been a legislator for 37 years, and I've watched how these things work. On these big, big agreements, they almost always happen at the last minute," Schumer said. "Neither side likes to give up its position. They eyeball each other until the very end. But then, each side, realizing that the alternative is worse, comes to an agreement. So while an agreement is hardly a certainty, I certainly wouldn't rule it out at this last minute.

Oh, and look what right-wing propaganda writer Byron York, who says he's hearing Senate Republicans are ready to give up obstructionism on the "Grand Bargain" by today or tomorrow. Poor thing seems despondent. Again, to Republicans , this is all a game about what they can deliver to their wealthy patrons... and to hell with working families.
Under the most likely scenario, Republicans will get nothing-- nothing-- in return for giving in on tax rates for the highest-income Americans.  No spending cuts, at least no serious spending cuts beyond what are already included in sequestration, would be part of the deal done on Sunday or Monday, if that is indeed what happens.

Instead, Republicans will tout their accomplishment in making nearly all of the Bush tax cuts permanent.  Those cuts were always temporary, first in a ten-year form that expired in 2011, and then with a two-year extension.  Now, in a fiscal cliff deal, they would be permanent for those who make less than $500,000 a year.  Or at least as permanent as any tax rate can be; rates can always be changed by Congress, at any time.

As for spending cuts, particularly in entitlements, some Senate Republicans say they will press for those in January or February, during the coming battle over raising the nation’s debt ceiling.  They believe that fight will give them leverage to extract real concessions from the White House and Democrats on spending.  It’s not entirely clear why they believe that so strongly; Republicans will certainly take a beating in the press if they appear ready to push the nation toward default to win unpopular cuts.  Nevertheless, some in the GOP are readying themselves for that fight.

As for the immediate fiscal cliff agreement, the wild card is what will happen in the House of Representatives.  Facing opposition from some conservative members, Speaker John Boehner has already had to back off pushing for a vote on a measure (“Plan B”) to extend current tax rates on all Americans who make less than $1 million.  Given that, how could he pass a bill that would do the same thing, only for those who make less than $500,000?

There are two things to remember. The first is that Boehner had a big majority of Republican support for Plan B.  An estimated 80 percent to 85 percent of the House GOP caucus was ready to vote for that bill.  The second thing is that a Senate deal, presumably blessed by the White House, would have the support of Democrats as well as a significant number of Republicans, meaning House Democrats would undoubtedly vote for it.  Put those Democrats together with even some of the Republicans who were prepared to vote for Plan B, and a bill would pass the House.

So a deal will most likely be done.  But the bottom line is that the fiscal cliff fight will not end happily for Republicans.  They will have given in on what was an article of faith-- that taxes should not be raised on anybody, poor or rich-- in return for essentially nothing.  All they will have is a plan to fight again, soon.
This debate should be about Democrats demanding a return to the Eisenhower era rates on plutocrats and Republicans pleasing for something in the 70% range. Democrats have to nominate a better president in the future. Elizabeth Warren would be awesome.

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At 10:58 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

That wouldn't such a bad idea on Warren but we also need better people to run the democratic party & right now Obama's staff the blue dogs new dems & conservative dems have failed.


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