President Obama today signalled that he would accept a plan by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to make a clean increase in the debt ceiling that is not directly tied to deficit reduction.
Obama, who appeared at yet another White House press conference, proclaimed that he continued to seek a $4 trillion deal to reduce the deficit. But since it includes tax increases unacceptable to Republicans, that deal is in reality so far out the window it cannot be reeled back in.
But Obama also subtly jettisoned a deal of about $2.4 trillion, suggesting an explanation for the impasse that has plagued the secret White House negotiations that have been held almost daily this week. That is, he wants sizable chunk of new taxes to close even the smaller the deal. Republicans will never bite.
Just to be very specific, we’ve identified over a trillion dollars in discretionary cuts, both in defense and domestic spending. That’s hard to do. I mean, that requires essentially that you freeze spending.
So I have not seen a credible plan — having gone through the numbers — that would allow you to get to $2.4 trillion without really hurting ordinary folks. And the notion that we would be doing that, and not asking anything from the wealthiest among us or from closing corporate loopholes — that doesn’t seem like a serious plan to me.
Obama’s tacit embrace of the McConnell escape hatch became apparent when he said he’d “like” to solve the deficit problem but didn’t insist on it, calling the clean increase in the deficit an “option” for ending the crisis, even if it is “the least attractive option.”
But in a sign that he at one point was serious about getting a deal. Obama also indicated that, as part of an agreement, he would allow average seniors’ Medicare costs to rise to help address program shortfalls, though the wealthier would have to pay even more.
If you’re a senior citizen, and a modification potentially costs you a hundred or two hundred bucks a year more, or even if it’s not affecting current beneficiaries, somebody who’s 40 today 20 years from now is going to end up having to pay a little bit more. The least I can do is to say that people who are making a million dollars or more have to do something as well.
Beyond that, there were some of the usual platitudes.
Republicans are the tools of greedy special interests:
My Republican friends have said that they’re not willing to do revenues and they have repeated that on several occasions. My hope, though, is that they’re listening not just to lobbyists or special interests here in Washington, but they’re also listening to the American people.
And, none of the deficit is my fault:
It turns out that our problem is we cut taxes without paying for them over the last decade; we ended up instituting new programs like a prescription drug program for seniors that was not paid for; we fought two wars, we didn’t pay for them; we had a bad recession that required a Recovery Act and stimulus spending and helping states — and all that accumulated and there’s interest on top of that.
So much for cumbaya. When politicians are spending as much time talking to all of us in the press instead of each other, they’re not serious about getting anything done. All in all, more evidence we’re going the McConnell route.