Friday, November 30, 2012

Opening Salvo

The good news is that I appear- thus far- to have been wrong in assuming that Barack Obama will concede ground even before starting to negotiate.  The bad news is that we're in only the bottom of the first inning.  The worse news is that I continue to use tired, worn sports parallels.

The baseball analogy is apt, though one should beware of someone referring to his own remark as "apt."   Team Obama has put out its opening bid, as summarized by Wonkblog's Suzy Khimm:



Immediate increase in both top marginal rates, as well as capital gains and dividends: +$960 Billion
Additional taxes: +$600 Billion
2009-level estate tax
AMT and business tax extenders: -$236 Billion
Payroll tax extension or alternative policy: -$110B
Bonus depreciation extension


$50 billion stimulus package in FY13
Mass refi mortgage proposal
Deferral of sequester
Savings from non-entitlement mandatory programs
Extension of unemployment insurance: $30 billion
Medicare SGR Patch: $25 Billion
Increase in the debt limit to avoid requiring Congress to vote to increase


Tax reform consistent with $1.6 trillion tax increase
Entitlement policies from President’s FY13 budget that could total $400 billion in savings

Despite a cut in the Medicare program and nothing about defense, that's a better proposal than we had a right to expect from Obama and may reflect a notion on the part of the President that he ought to stop negotiating with himself.
On Thursday, Charles Krauthammer charged on GOP TV

What Geithner offered, what you showed on the screen, Robert E. Lee was offered easier terms at Appomattox, and he lost the Civil War.   There are not only no cuts in this, there's an increase in spending with a new stimulus. I mean, this is almost unheard of. What do they expect? They obviously expect the Republicans will cave on everything. I think the Republicans ought to simply walk away.

Squealing loudest, Rush Limbaugh claims  "Now, as I say, if we ever needed any proof what I've been saying for the last couple days is true, we got it yesterday with this ridiculous opening bid.  Santa Claus wants to take his sleigh over the fiscal cliff. There's no question about it now.  None.  Whatsoever."    

According to Fred Barnes, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (to whom Limbaugh says he spoke) "says he 'burst into laughter' Thursday when Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner outlined the administration proposal for averting the fiscal cliff.  He wasn’t trying to embarrass Geithner, McConnell says, only responding candidly to his one-sided plan, explicit on tax increases, vague on spending cuts."

And House Speaker John Weepy Boehner- who is almost as influential as Limbaugh- remarked “Let’s not kid ourselves.   Right now, we’re almost nowhere.”

Unless they're auditioning for an Academy Award, Repubs really do appear annoyed by the President's initial proposal, which is a splendid sign.   Still, it's a little disconcerting to read from the well-connected Ezra Klein

If Republicans want to cut Medicare, let them propose the cuts. If they want to raise revenue through tax reform, let them identify the deductions. If they want deeper cuts in discretionary spending, let them settle on a number. And, above all, if they don’t like the White House’s preferred policies, let them propose their own. That way, if the White House eventually does give in and agree to some of their demands, Republicans will feel like they got one over on the president.

This suggests that Obama primarily wants the GOP to request the debilitating cuts in the social safety net he then would largely accept.   At that point, it would be left to the left to oppose a destructive measure- if it is up to the task.

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