Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Is the president, that master negotiator, once again prepared to give away the store?


by Ken

I pointed out awhile ago that smart people I know online predicted that the Teabaggers and their allies would meet their doom if they seriously threatened to muck up the debt limit increase, because the really serious people, the ones who own us, are sitting on so much paper whose value will plunge if the world perceives a serious risk of a U.S. default on payments. This, my smart acquaintances insisted, would rouse the Serious People to blow the whistle on the rambunctious kiddies -- no mucking around with real stuff like the grownups' personal wealth.

I speculated that the Serious People who poured so much money into creating the Teabagger menace may now be discovering that they have little power to stuff the toothpaste back into the tube. It may be too that the Serious People can afford to exercise some patience in the admittedly nervous-making game the House Republicans have chosen to play on the debt-limit issue in exchange for what they can extract in negotiations between Congress and the White House.

FDL's David Dayen has been keeping tabs on information dribbling out of the negotiations, and now that the president has officially stepped in, what he's hearing is pretty scary. (Naturally there are lots of links in the post onsite.)

More on the Medicare-for-Revenues Swap Floated in Debt Limit Deal

By: David Dayen Tuesday June 28, 2011 10:54 am

Last week I noted that Max Baucus gave away the endgame in the debt limit talks – aside from the $1.5 trillion or so in spending cuts already agreed to, further cuts to Medicare would have to be teamed with co-equal increases in revenue. This would destroy the competitive advantage for 2012 by giving Republicans a get out of jail free card for their Medicare-ending budget. Instead, Republicans would excoriate their opponents for this new round of cuts to Medicare, something that won them the election in 2010 and which they continue to try in ads this year. It almost doesn’t matter what the substance of these cuts are; they will be spun by Republicans as “Medicare cuts that hurt seniors,” even though they would be voting for them as part of a deal. Indeed, the $500 billion in cuts through ending Medicare Advantage overpayments and other payment reforms, which were in the Affordable Care Act, are also in the Paul Ryan budget that almost every Republican voted for, but that hasn’t stopped the parade of accusations.

We got a little more information on the Medicare-for-revenue trade today from David Rogers.
For their part, Obama and Reid appear prepared to reach much higher, putting substantial Medicare savings on the table if Republicans would accept added revenues. With the House GOP leadership in New York, all of Monday’s White House maneuvering was Senate-centric. But Obama’s hope is that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), with whom he met privately last week, will be intrigued by a bolder package that might also help neutralize the Medicare issue now hurting the GOP among elderly voters.

The Bush-era income tax rates would not be targeted. Instead, the focus would be more on corporate tax subsidies or capping deductions that most benefit the wealthy. Obama identified close to $760 billion in new 10-year tax revenues as part of his new budget “framework” in April, and the idea would be to pick from this menu and test the willingness of Republicans to consider this approach.

House Republicans have not outright rejected this approach. Much depends on the specific tax provisions that would be affected. But the GOP leadership already knows that it can’t expect to bring all its conservatives to the table, and if the package offered substantial Medicare reforms to help stabilize the program’s finances, it could be seen as a victory for the party.

It would be a victory for everyone but senior citizens, and would represent the last straw in the minds of many with the Democratic Party. You would almost have to be an asceticist to deliberately tank your own competitive advantage in this way. Apparently currying favor among the serious people means more than winning elections.

The greatest hope for the holding together of the safety net are Congressional Republicans, who don’t want this deal despite the political benefit, because they are dead-set against raising any revenues (I discussed what revenues are under consideration earlier) . That could lead to a much narrower deal that relies on triggers and enforcement mechanisms to arrive at the level of deficit reduction arbitrarily set as the marker.

Again, gridlock is the great friend of the average American. It’s also the great hazard, with the debt limit looming in a little over a month.

…from Bloomberg:
Making changes to Medicare, such as asking the wealthy to pay a higher price for their premiums, is one idea that has been raised. Democrats have long opposed such a change, arguing it would undermine popular support for the government-run health care program for the elderly.

Still, there are signs they may be softening, with prominent Democrats like Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, who holds the party’s No. 2 position in the chamber, saying the issue needs to be on the table.

I don’t know what world they think they can make something like that work in politically.

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At 5:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The store was given away in 2009 when he failed to make use of his strong majority to pass real health care reform. Everything since then is just pieces of the store's customers.


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