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I’m quite amazed that THIS STORY hadn’t appeared in the community until Joan McCarter posted her piece, a few hours ago: “Leaked deal memo from grand bargain talks show threat to Social Security, Medicare, safety net.”  As McJoan notes, “It’s bad. Very bad.”

Joan was referencing Bob Woodward’s disclosure on Meet the Press, yesterday, concerning the “confidential” details of the White House’s Grand Bargain offer to Speaker Boehner, last year. (For those trash-talking about Woodward tonight, I would suggest you read up on him via the link to his Wiki page in the previous sentence.)

White House Grand Bargain offer to Speaker Boehner Obtained by Bob Woodward
Sun Nov 11, 2012 11:58 AM EST

Below are documents obtained by the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward that show a grand bargain proposal the White House was prepared to make in order to reach agreement with the House Republicans last year. This is how Woodward described the documents on Meet the Press this morning:

"This is a confidential document, last offer the president -- the White House made last year to Speaker Boehner to try to reach this $4 trillion grand bargain.  And it's long and it's tedious and it's got budget jargon in it.  But what it shows is a willingness to cut all kinds of things, like TRICARE, which is the sacred health insurance program for the military, for military retirees; to cut Social Security [Diarist’s Note: With regard to proposed Social Security cuts, see “Civilian Retirement” in the list of proposed cuts]; to cut Medicare. And there are some lines in there about, "We want to get tax rates down, not only for individuals but for businesses."  So Obama and the White House were willing to go quite far…"
(The post over at the Meet the Press website, blockquoted above, includes the three-page document that the White House forwarded to Boehner. It’s certainly a must-read, IMHO.)

However, when one takes a deeper dive we learn that this leaked memo was authored by the top person responsible for legislation in Jack Lew’s office, back when Lew was the President’s budget management honcho, and not his chief-of-staff--the job he holds today. (Not to mention that he’s, arguably, the leading person under consideration to replace Tim Geithner as Treasury Secretary.)

With those facts brought to the fore, this story takes on a downright surreal urgency that is far worse than just: “very bad.”

You see, not only was the President’s current chief-of-staff the individual responsible for running the office which authored the “Gang of Six” memo in question (the author of the memo, Rob Nabors, worked closely with Lew, managing his budget office’s legislative efforts); but, his chief-of-staff in 2011, William Daley, back when the memo was submitted to Boehner, had this to say (via Bloomberg) about the matter, just this past Friday:

Obama-Boehner 2011 Near-Deal Blueprint for New Debt Talks
By Heidi Przybyla and Mike Dorning
Nov 9, 2012 11:18 AM ET

The blueprint for a deal to avoid a fiscal nightmare early next year may be found in the failed debt negotiations between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner in mid-2011.

Part of their talks on a $4 trillion deficit-cutting plan included a gradual increase in the Medicare eligibility age to 67 and an alternative yardstick for calculating inflation that would reduce annual Social Security cost-of-living adjustments.

Democratic-leaning interest groups including the AFL-CIO are mobilizing to oppose any cuts to Medicare and Social Security. Still, Obama could use this as a starting point to strike a multitrillion-dollar deal on debt reduction with Republicans, said William Daley, a former White House chief of staff who was at the center of the 2011 negotiations.

“It’s logical that that’s where you’d go back to, the points where there was either agreement or close to an agreement and try to begin there,” he said. The president and Boehner were “80 to 85 percent of the way there” on a debt reduction plan during negotiations to raise the U.S. debt limit in 2011, he said…

Bold type is diarist’s emphasis.

Now, folks may say: “That was then, this is now.” But, look at the headline of the Bloomberg piece from Friday, above.

In concluding this post, I thought I’d provide a link to some additional historical reference…

Obama vs. Boehner: Who Killed the Debt Deal?
(This also appeared under the headline: “The Game Is Called Chicken”)
Matt Bai
New York Times Magazine
April 1st, 2012 (edition)

…The Secret Negotiations Begin

You may recall that Washington last summer was verging on something resembling cold-war hysteria. Republicans in the House were refusing to meet an August deadline for increasing the nation’s debt limit by some $2.4 trillion unless they got an equivalent amount of budget cuts in return, raising the prospect of a default that, it was assumed, would send the financial markets into a death spiral. Vice President Joe Biden and Eric Cantor, the House majority leader and Boehner’s No. 2 in the Republican caucus, had been holding talks in hopes of finding some preliminary agreement that might avert disaster, but those talks broke down in late June, primarily over the issue of taxes; the two men and their staffs had identified something like $2 trillion in cuts over the next decade, but the White House wasn’t going to make a deal that didn’t include some new tax revenue, and Cantor was adamant that raising taxes — any taxes — was a deal-breaker.

By then, however, Obama and Boehner had themselves started meeting furtively in the White House, in secret negotiating sessions that grew out of a much-discussed golf outing in June. Over a few drinks at the clubhouse at Andrews Air Force Base, Boehner suggested they might be able to use the impending debt crisis to achieve something ambitious and significant — not just the kind of cuts that Cantor and Biden were discussing, but fundamental reforms to entitlement programs and the tax code too, a sweeping modernization of the federal budget. The president agreed that they should try to get something started, but the breakthrough that seemed to make a transformational deal possible didn’t come until mid-July, in the form of a cryptic e-mail.

Budget deals happen in much the same way you might haggle over the purchase of a house: one side bangs out a proposed contract and sends it to aides on the other side, who cross out some numbers and phrases and insert new ones in their place, until the two sides ultimately iron out their differences, or until someone delivers a final offer and walks away. In this case, Obama’s principal negotiators — Jack Lew, then his budget director, and Rob Nabors, his top aide on legislation — sent a proposal to Boehner’s team that included $1.5 trillion in new revenue over 10 years. The White House negotiators knew this had about as much chance of happening as a meteorite falling on the Capitol, but the real question was whether Boehner was willing to go some distance toward meeting them on the revenue side of the ledger, or whether he would stick to Cantor’s hard line against any form of new taxes.

When the response came back to Nabors, Boehner’s aides had, as expected, struck the $1.5 trillion from the offer. But in its place they had inserted a strange formulation: they were proposing to reduce federal revenue, “compared to current law,” by $2.8 trillion. On the surface, this sounded like a flagrant rejection of what the White House was proposing — “You’re asking for more in taxes, we’re giving you less” — but in fact Boehner was speaking in complex code…

Bold text is diarist’s emphasis.

I realize that a few things have changed since July 2011, but the truth is that the 2012 elections have come and gone with very little change within the status quo in D.C. And, the extent to which the White House was willing to go in their negotiations with Boehner was never made public until just the past 36 hours, if we’re to take Woodward’s scoop at face value. And, for the record, I do.

Jack Lew was a top Citigroup executive before he joined the administration. Daley was a prominent board member of JPMorgan Chase for many years before he joined team Obama. (i.e.: The banks still run the place.)

Between the two of them, they executed the White House's strategy with regard to "fiscal cliff" negotiations on Capitol Hill.

IMHO, until we witness anything to the contrary, the biggest difference between 2011 and 2012 in our nation’s capital is that everyone there is a year older. And, regrettably, that’s about it.

And, when it comes to negotiating the Grand Bargain, if nothing's substantively changed since 2011, “Yes Mr. President—‘That Would Be A Betrayal.’

Some would even refer to it as “The Great Betrayal.

"The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know."
Harry S. Truman

Originally posted to on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 09:32 PM PST.

Also republished by The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, Dailykos Kossacks For Action, and Social Security Defenders.

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