published Friday, December 21st, 2012

Boehner's Plan B debacle

House Speaker Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, speaks to the media about the fiscal cliff at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012.
House Speaker Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, speaks to the media about the fiscal cliff at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

House Speaker John Boehner's sharp turnaround in the "fiscal cliff" negotiations — opting for a badly rigged tax increase only on millionaires, but sustaining their generous cuts in inheritance taxes — was designed mainly to try to force President Obama in a corner. Even if it were to have passed a House vote by majority Republicans Thursday evening -- and it wasn't clear that would happen as this was written -- it won't work because it dodges the larger debt and revenue problems that this entire back-to-the-wall negotiation was intended to help resolve. There's just no point in adopting a short-term Plan B to kick the deficit can down the road, and into the thuggery of political extortion.

Boehner surely knows this. His plan would produce just $300 billion in new revenue over the next 10 years -- the standard measure used for computing long-term deficit reduction. That is far less than the $800 billion Boehner had previously agreed to for revenue increases as part of a larger debt-reduction package. Beyond that, Boehner has yet to specify any of the vague spending cuts he is supposed to be offering.

By contrast, Obama's latest proposal in the fiscal negotiations -- including extension of the Bush tax cuts for nearly 99 percent of Americans -- would generate $1 trillion in new revenue over the next decade, and his spending cuts would amount to $930 billion. The latter is up by more than 50 percent from the $600 billion in spending cuts that he had previously proposed. That's partly because Obama agreed to slow Social Security increases by shifting to the so-called chained Consumer Price Index for pegging consumer inflation rates. Most Democrats reasonably oppose that concession. It invokes a slower inflation index in Social Security payments, and runs counter to promises by Democrats -- and, previously, Obama -- to leave Social Security intact.

Another Obama concession would expand renewal of the Bush tax cuts to families with annual household income of up to $400,000, rather than the $250,000 cut-off he long used to meet his promise of rescinding Bush-era tax cuts for the top 2 percent of earners.

For both financial and sound policy reasons, Senate Democrats had rightly declared that Boehner's Plan B would be dead on arrival in the Senate. Even if the Senate were to pass it, Obama had promised to veto it. Why Boehner broke off what were proving to be constructive negotiations, in favor of his shift to a futile unilateral Plan B, remains unclear. He says he just wants to extend the Bush tax cuts for all Americans under the millionaire level of annual income, but he now insists on leaving everything else regarding deficit control and spending reductions undone.

The likely explanation for Boehner's break from negotiations isn't much of a mystery. He obviously doesn't control the House. Its recalcitrant Tea Party faction still resists any retreat from their rigid fixation on keeping the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans intact, and they would rather whack spending that shores up the safety net for the middle class and critical government agencies. They would support his Plan B because it would safeguard tax cuts for the middle class, but leave spending cuts still to be taken in Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, and essential government services, i.e., FDA inspectors, agricultural programs, federal research and law enforcement.

In effect, Plan B is just a con. With no way to get their approval for bipartisan compromise, Boehner has just dangled a feint that would lead directly to another a debt ceiling showdown in the new year as leverage to get a deficit-reduction deal on strictly Tea Party terms.

Democrats can't let this happen. Bipartisan compromise is essential. Democrats must pursue it, and their only leverage is a package deal.

Eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy -- especially the top tenth of the top 1 percent -- is critical to the goal of fair deficit reduction, but it has to come with a fair GOP offer on broader deficit reduction that doesn't eviscerate safety net programs and essential government functions and agencies. Democrats would make a grave mistake to accept Plan B, and let Boehner and Tea Parties throw ordinary working Americans and essential government functions under the bus.

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MyGen said...

Having heard with our own ears the statements of Sen. Harry Reid refusing to address any of this and who has refused votes for months on legislation that has already passed the US House, your credibility is lost in criticizing John Boehner.

As a center-right independent voter, I'm fed up with all of this. But intentionally arguing false information is part of the problem.

December 21, 2012 at 6:08 a.m.
joneses said...

The fact that obastards plan will only fund the government for 8 days is more proof this occupier of the White House cannot lead and is incompetent. The budget obastard did propose was so pathetic it was turned down by his own democratic party in the Senate.

December 21, 2012 at 6:40 a.m.
dao1980 said...

Non functioning partisan politics at it's worst, so much for serving your country you worthless loosers.

Of course here we also have the common partisan cheerleaders as well, showing their undies with splits, kicks, and a grand "hooray!" for team red.. or blue... or whichever team is defecating from their mouths and minds on the news today.

December 21, 2012 at 7:36 a.m.
joneses said...

The problem is there is no leadership in Washington D.C., only spineless jelly fish. The worst thing that happened to our federal government is when the income tax was created. All that accomplished was attracting greed ridden politicians wanting access to more money to buy votes to pursue their own personal self serving agenda. The retirement for life for these politicians needs to go away as well and unless they all work under a balanced budget then they should not get paid one penny.

December 21, 2012 at 8:30 a.m.
dao1980 said...

Well dern, it must be the post apocalyptic setting we now live in.. (lame joke I know) but I agree with you one hundred and ten percent on that joneses.

You may or may not agree with this viewpoint.. but to me, it seems that there's not just a leadership deficit where we need it most, but that we have no one genuinely representing our actual interests.

Only the interests of huge corporations and massive conglomerated lobbies, as well as those able to "donate" millions of dollars to these filthy politicians are attended to, while we're just offered thinly veiled pacification speeches to keep us confused and divided enough to bend over and accept the status-quo as inevitable and unchangeable reality.

December 21, 2012 at 9:07 a.m.
Handleit said...

The people that are elected to run the government are not interested in this country. They are only interested in what they can put in their pockets and the pockets of their backers. Until we, the general public, grow enough backbone to start voting these people out of office and take control away from the big investors we are going to suffer. Term limits will never happen. These people are not going to put themselves out of office. Vote against career politicians and take America back.

December 21, 2012 at 9:09 a.m.
hushmymouth said...

If the self serving bureaucrats who presently take up space on Capital Hill can't get their act together and compromise on this "fiscal cliff hangar", I, for one, will not vote for any sitting incumbent in the next election (Democrat or Republican). "We the people" are fed up with this on going pi.... contest they are playing at our expense. We can not AFFORD to continue to send them back to Washington time and again to continue this foolishness. Stop the finger pointing, unless you're looking in a mirror, and do something. Oh, and Merry Christmas.

December 21, 2012 at 5:49 p.m.
jesse said...

Boehner is down to plan D now!! PUNT!!

December 22, 2012 at 9:23 a.m.
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