Here's the first thing to know about negotiations on the fiscal
cliff curb as of Monday.
That's the status quo going into Monday's meeting between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. Coming out of it is less encouraging news.
The two men met for about 45 minutes, according to the White House, and neither side is providing any information. However, people in both parties say that Mr. Boehner, for the Republicans, is not pressing any more for an increase in the Medicare eligibility age to 67 from 65, while Mr. Obama has indicated that for the right deal he would support switching to a new inflation formula for federal programs, one that would have the effect of reducing future cost-of-living payments for Social Security beneficiaries.Chained CPI for leaving the Medicare eligibility age alone is a totally unnecessary concession, if this report is true. Other reports leave the Medicare age change in the mix. But the Social Security change, which Democrats have insisted on keeping out of the negotiations, is getting a second look according to TPM's Brian Beutler.
Amid news reports that President Obama is considering a proposal from House Speaker John Boehner to slow the growth of Social Security payments over time as part of a broader budget deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, senior Democratic congressional aides are portraying the idea as a more palatable alternative to other benefit cuts Republicans have sought.By the way, it's not just Social Security benefits that would be affected. It's veterans, too. It's also a tax hike on lower- and middle-income workers because income taxes would be indexed to it as well as federal benefits.
It's a bad idea for vulnerable people in a recession, and politically it's kind of insane. Why give Republicans the ammunition of Democrats making Social Security cuts when absolutely no concessions have to be made here. First, we can step off the curb and Democrats can come back in a stronger position to negotiate retroactively how to fix it. Second, Boehner doesn't deserve any reward, any movement in his direction, for saying that maybe he'll be okay with raising tax rates for the really, really rich and putting off a fight on the debt ceiling for a year in exchange for pain. Third, Boehner needs to prove he can bring a long his caucus before there are any handshakes between him and Obama.
Republicans willing to give up a lot more on tax rates, although not fully undoing the Bush tax cuts in the 250-400 range; additional tax hikes via deduction limits in a form that hits the wealthy, not the upper middle class (28 percent and all that); unemployment extension and infrastructure spending; but “chained CPI” for Social Security, which is a benefit cut.But what he says, "we shouldn’t be doing benefit cuts at all," and "those benefit cuts are really bad, and you hate to see a Democratic president lending his name to something like that," and "I want to see more—and also want to see whether the Republican crazies scuttle the whole thing before it even gets off the ground."
Going out on a limb by giving up something as harmful and as big as the chained CPI without any real evidence that the Republicans will play along is an iffy, perhaps dangerous, game.