New York Times Washington Post editorial board puts up strawmen and knocks them down as it calls for President Obama to ignore liberals:
Elections do have consequences, and Mr. Obama ran on a clear platform of increasing taxes on the wealthy. But he was clear on something else, too: Deficit reduction must be “balanced,” including spending cuts as well as tax increases. Since 60 percent of the federal budget goes to entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, there’s no way to achieve balance without slowing the rate of increase of those programs.Liberals aren't saying that Medicare and Social Security don't need to be strengthened over the long term. Rather, the argument is that the conversation for strengthening those programs shouldn't take place in the highly-politicized, ticking time bomb atmosphere of the lame duck session "fiscal cliff" talks. As Senators Durbin and Shaheen and others have reiterated, Social Security is not in crisis and should be off the table. There appears to be less resistance to including Medicare and Medicaid in debt negotiations, however.
This could be accomplished in a progressive manner, shielding the poorest beneficiaries from cuts. But that seems less likely to be achieved if progressives boycott serious negotiations by pretending that Social Security and Medicare are sustainable with no reform at all. [...]
At some point, he has to prepare the American people — and his own supporters most of all — for the “hard decisions” required to put the country on a sound financial footing. That means spending cuts, it means entitlement reform, it means compromise, it means a balanced solution that will please neither House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) nor Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
As for Social Security, Froma Harrop lays down the GOP's torrid hate affair with the program:
Conservatives never much liked Social Security. It’s a wildly popular government program that’s totally solvent until 2033. It will be easily fixable and by then may not need fixing at all. Doesn’t quite fit with the government-can’t-do-anything-right talking point.Goldman Sachs' CEO Lloyd Blankenfield is making his case on the Hill and in the White House this week in meetings that Americans need to work longer. As one of many Fortune 500 CEOs who are part of the "Fix the Debt" charade, his position is that the retirement age should be raised.
Ethan Rome, writing at The Huffington Post, rightly lambasts that position:
The hypocrisy of Lloyd Blankfein, a Wall Street banker, and other corporate leaders who have inserted themselves into the debate over major tax and spending decisions under consideration in Congress is nothing short of repugnant. Blankfein's Goldman Sachs got billions from the federal government during the Wall Street bailouts, enabling him to hold a job that paid him $16.1 million in 2011, and now he wants the rest of us to take a pay cut -- now and in the future. [...]Mark Schmitt from the Next New Deal, via Salon, takes apart the "Fix the Debt" campaign as a sham:
In the name of "fiscal responsibility" the self-interested CEOs animating Fix the Debt -- which, by the way, is led by 14 white men and only two women -- are pushing a deficit reduction plan that would lower taxes for corporations and the super-rich while slashing programs central to the middle class and those working their way into it. The Fix the Debt CEOs start with the assumption that poor, working and middle-class families should shoulder the bulk of the burden of deficit reduction. Meanwhile, none of the deficit hawks is talking about creating jobs and growing the U.S. economy.
The corporate executives literally have no idea how the rest of America lives.
Fix the Debt and its partners find themselves twisted in a knot. Because “comprehensive tax reform” is such a central component of their vision, they have to root for the Bush tax cuts, because there’s not much room for reform otherwise. But supporting the Bush tax cuts, as a baseline, is not “fixing the debt.” It’s the opposite, since the Bush tax cuts make up almost all of the long-term projected deficit, as this chart from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows:Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post:
It’s also worth noting that Fix The Debt’s approach to taxes is not the same as the Simpson-Bowles commission. Simpson-Bowles started from the assumption that the Bush tax cuts would expire. Insisting that the Bush tax cuts form the starting point for negotiations was the position, instead, of Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan (it was one reason he opposed Simpson-Bowles), and the current House Republicans.
I’m not sure why Fix the Debt put itself in a position where it now seems more concerned with protecting the Bush tax cuts than actually reducing the long-term deficit. Maybe it’s that the devotion to the fantasy of a grand bargain that includes something called “tax reform” drove them there. Maybe it’s that it’s necessary to maintain the nominal support from Republicans and business leaders that they boast. But whatever the cause, it’s where they seem to be. And a group devoted to fiscal responsibility has no business protecting one of the two most irresponsible fiscal choices in recent history.
The problem is that the behind-the-scenes deal-making has been way more disappointing than the public posturing. After the kumbaya White House meeting Friday with congressional leaders, it took until the following Monday evening for Republicans to return to the White House with an initial offer.Alexander Bolton at The Hill:
It was, in a word, pathetic.
Democrats are increasing their demands on what should be in a deficit deal, seeking to shield entitlement programs and insisting on raising the nation’s debt ceiling this year.Charlie Cook looks at the GOP brand:
In the wake of President Obama’s reelection and Democratic gains in Congress, party leaders are growing bolder as the Dec. 31 deadline for extending the Bush-era tax rates and stopping automatic spending cuts approaches.
[E]ven if these candidates don't open their mouths, insert grenades, and pull pins (a la Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock), they still project a more extreme image for the party that makes it incredibly difficult for more-mainstream Republicans in swing or difficult states to win. For every Akin and Mourdock, there is a Scott Brown, a Linda Lingle, or a Heather Wilson who cannot win in tough places, at least in presidential years, because of the face of the Republican Party, a threatening brand to many moderate and swing voters.