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Speaker John Boehner, Rep. Paul Ryan, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Rep. Eric Cantor and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Every Serious Person in Washington, D.C. knows that the big problem facing our nation isn't creating jobs and growing the middle class—it's getting a our national debt under control. They know this because House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan created a spreadsheet with some scary charts of what things might be like in the 2070s. (Rumor has it that he created the charts with nothing but his dimples and abs.)

So when Ryan said over the weekend that the country isn't facing an immediate debt crisis, Very Serious People were right to be dismayed. After all, how can Paul Ryan possibly convince Americans to support his plan to balance the budget in ten years if he says there's not an immediate debt crisis? If Ryan says there's no debt crisis, people might get crazy ideas—like believing that creating jobs should be our top priority, not austerity.

Fortunately, Paul Ryan has a boss: House Speaker John Boehner. And Speaker Boehner knows there's a debt crisis. He said so in December, dismissing President Obama's plan to replace the sequester and end Bush tax cuts for the wealthy because "his plan does not begin to solve our debt crisis."

But wait, I'm just learning now that Boehner has recanted. This weekend he said:

We do not have an immediate debt crisis.
Asked specifically whether he agreed with President Obama who has said we don't have an immediate debt crisis, Boehner said "yes." Don't get me wrong, he still says he wants to make huge spending cuts, because eventually he says we'll have a crisis—but he says we don't have one right now.

But just because Boehner is changing how he talks about whether or not there's a debt crisis, it's not like he's actually changing his policies. Sure, it would be reasonable for him to change, given that the budget deficit has dropped by half since 2009 while the unemployment rate is still stuck near 8 percent. But that's not happening. Republicans might be saying there's no debt crisis, but austerity is still the only thing they are offering.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Austerity (15+ / 0-)

    The Republican solution, still on a quixotic quest for an appropriate problem.

    Economics is a social *science*. Can we base future economic decisions on math?

    by blue aardvark on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 07:34:27 AM PDT

  •  This does not matter (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, ferg, RichM

    if tomorrow they say there's a debt crisis.  Because we were always at war with Eastasia.

    Early to rise and early to bed Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead. --Not Benjamin Franklin

    by Boundegar on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 07:35:52 AM PDT

  •  We should just get through 2 years of sequester... (9+ / 0-)

    ...and put everything on 2014 and the total assault on Republican ideas.  

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 07:37:56 AM PDT

  •  It may be the great defict insanity (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ferg, Odysseus

    is receeding.  No doubt a million or more people stayed unemployed due to the policies of austerity followed since 2011, but it could have bene worse.    

    Van Hollen talked about jobs being our number one problem and how it impacted on deficts.  Obama also seems to be pivoting from any Grand Bargain.

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by TomP on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 07:39:54 AM PDT

  •  things are always very serious (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, skillet, viral, eps62

    with the gop, when was the last time you saw a smile on any of these neanderthals, i thought not.

  •  House Republicans are their own crisis. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, pamelabrown, eps62

    Ain't nothin' important getting through that dysfunctional body!

    The track for the foreseeable future (that is, until January 2015): the Senate will have to pass a bill that Speaker Boehner can stomach putting on the House floor, meaning that he's willing to tolerate Nancy Pelosi delivering Democrats to help pass it.

    If the going gets tough, the House can hang on amendments and go to conference with the Senate. (Which Tea Party zealots will surely regard as capitulation because conferences involve compromise.)

    2014 IS COMING. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

    by TRPChicago on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 07:42:14 AM PDT

  •  Hey GOP.....a rising tide lifts all boats...ponder (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tb mare, chrississippi, eps62


  •  Is Ryan proposing a precipitous withdrawal (4+ / 0-)

    from The Global War on Debt? Won't that empower the terrorists Keynesians?

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 07:53:27 AM PDT

  •  He doesn't really have WMD's but... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blukat, eps62

    For Republicans it is all about the marketing catch phrase and the underlying frame it is supposed to appeal to. They have no shame about switching out of one idea and into another because their marketing is not their product. Their product is to privatize everything to the point that domestic government and services are all at the service of corporations and wealth accumulators (the bigger the better). They can't sell that product to very many people so they are always marketing/lying to con folks into supporting their politicians and plans.

    Love = Awareness of mutually beneficial exchange across semi-permeable boundaries. Political and economic systems either amplify or inhibit Love.

    by Bob Guyer on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 08:04:04 AM PDT

  •  There's the pivot, then. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blukat, eps62

    What's coming next on the Republican "fright and fight" agenda? Because you know they have something in the works that will catch us unprepared and defensive for the next, say, 1 year and 7.5 months . . .

    "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

    by bryduck on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 08:27:51 AM PDT

  •  We Have An Alien Crisis Called NeoCons But (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    we might do well to call them aliens to the planet Earth instead of neoCons.

  •  Every Serious Person (4+ / 0-)
    Every Serious Person in Washington, D.C. knows that the big problem facing our nation isn't creating jobs and growing the middle class—it's getting a our national debt under control.
    I respectfully disagree.  

    "Every Serious Person in Washington, D.C. knows that the big problem facing our nation isn't creating jobs and growing the middle class":  IT'S ENTITLEMENT REFORM!

    We need a grand bargain.  STAT!

    Nothing says "I'm a serious person" like screwing over the poor, the sick, and the elderly.  

    It's what serious people in Washington do.  

    •  Respectfully, BB1--The "Grand Bargain" is the (0+ / 0-)

      vehicle for cutting entitlements to avoid cuts to discretionary and defense spending.

      If Social Security and Medicare are your concerns, you should call the WH and Capitol Hill in opposition of a "Grand Bargain."

      We need to repeal the sequester package, or leave it alone.  First option, the best.  ;-)

      The fight is on!

      Please burn up the phone line to the White House, to Speaker Boehner's Office, and to Capitol Hill.

      Here's the White House Comment Line (live and recording):  


      Here's two Capitol Hill phone numbers (for Speaker Boehner, our Senators and US House Representatives):


      [These are current numbers.]


      "If a dog won’t come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.” -- Woodrow Wilson


      by musiccitymollie on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 12:41:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  No immediate crisis (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Depends, of course, on what you mean by "immediate." Lewison keeps steering us to that now-superseded $845 Bn figure, which even the CBO has now jacked up to $983 Bn, still on the same rosy assumption that the sequester continues and the "doc fix" stays as-is. So, at a bare minimum, there is no credible claim that the deficit has been halved under any scenario.

    •  People here need to stop perpetuating myths (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nextstep, VClib

      like that.  It is simply not credible to use numbers that (1) have been superseded; and (2) assumes we are not going to do the "doc fix" when we just DID the "doc fix" again on December 31.

      So, assuming the sequester continues, we're back up to a deficit of about $1 trillion ($983 billion plus the doc fix). That's a cut in a deficit that reached almost $1.5 trillion, but it's not "halved" and an annual $1 trillion deficit is not sustainable over the long term.  

  •  So this is how they are going to do it. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Since each blockade they come up with ends up failing lately (thankfully) they need some excuse that they think makes them not look like they have backed down.

    Since it's getting closer to the end of the month I was wondering how they were going to work their way out of this latest one.

    Too bad it doesn't make those who believe everything that comes out of their mouths realize that these Republicans have been bsing the whole time.

    So now they are going to try to quietly back down by having the "debit crisis" no longer be a "crisis".

    Now I know why my neck hurts. It's all this flip-flopping.

  •  They are right and wrong. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Assuming we keep taxes at the level they are after the fiscal cliff deal, AND keep the sequester in place, we are probably about at a sustainable level.  Starting next year (when the tax increase after the fiscal cliff deal kicks in), we'll be back at about 19% of GDP, which is at the historical high end.  In other words, we don't need that extra trillion in tax revenue over the next 10 years.  Also, assuming the sequester stays in place, we'll be back down to 22% of GDP in outlays, which again is probably at a historical level, so no further cuts are necessary in the immediate term. OMB numbers on those things are summarzed here.

    In other words, as the law exists now after the fiscal cliff deal and the sequester, we are probably ok as far as amount of tax revenue and amount of spending.  The problem is where that spending goes -- more and more of it, as a percentage of our budget, is going to entitlement programs.  In 10 years or so, the federal government will be largely a retirement and health care provider, with less and less ability to do other things.  The latest CBO estimates are that, over the next 10 years, Social Security and health care spending alone will be 53% of the total federal budget.  CBO projections here.  That doesn't count interest on the debt, defense, or any discretionary spending -- all of those will have to shrink accordingly.  And that's before the costs of entitlements starts really exploding in 10 years or so.

    The real problem is Medicare (and Medicaid) 10 years from now.  (Pdf here)  There's no way that, if we leave Medicare as is for the next 10 years, we will be able to avoid rationing end of life care AND imposing a broad-based, middle class tax increase, or -- as Krugman has put it repeatedly over the last 2 years -- "Death Panels and Sales Taxes."  Example here.

    So, we can do nothing about Medicare for the next 10 years, and then tell seniors we are immediately going to start rationing end of life care (i.e., an 80 year old is not going to get the $100,000 treatment that has a 1 in 3 chance of extending life for 6 months) AND ALSO impose a broad based VAT tax, or we can begin to bend the cost curve now and try to avoid that situation, as well as free up some revenue to invest in things for the next generation.

    •  Respectfully, (0+ / 0-)
      "tell seniors we are immediately going to start rationing end of life care (i.e., an 80 year old is not going to get the $100,000 treatment that has a 1 in 3 chance of extending life for 6 months) AND ALSO impose a broad based VAT tax, or we can begin to bend the cost curve now and try to avoid that situation, as well as free up some revenue to invest in things for the next generation,"

      this is exactly where we're going NOW.

      Come on--the VAT tax is just around the corner.  [Oh, maybe a year to three out.  They'll do what they can to muddy the waters so that most folks won't relate the current 'tax overhaul' with the new VAT tax, as usual, LOL!]

      And you know that Medicare reform will and does include measures to limit some procedures, etc, which occur mostly during end-of-life care.  That's what so-called 'best practices' is all about.

      After the taxes are slashed for the wealthy and the corporations (which the Administration is negotiating with Repubs, now), there will be a 'hue and cry' that, "By George!, we don't have a tax base that can support our needs (especially the social insurance programs)."

      I hear this all the time in congressional hearings on C-Span.  All of these steps will be incremental.

      What you just described is exactly what all 'the serious people' in both parties are working toward.

      And that would include folks such as former Democratic House Speaker Dick Gephardt.  I've even heard Norm Ornstein and his sidekick (can't remember his name now) who support the Dems' (corporatist) agenda of striking a Grand Bargain.

      That's one of the goals of the current tax overhaul.  It's just a matter of time.

      So, have to agree to disagree with you on this one.  ;-)


      "If a dog won’t come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.” -- Woodrow Wilson


      by musiccitymollie on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 12:59:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well, ya know, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eps62, Odysseus

    I do believe the ship is about to turn.
    "No Immediate Crisis".
    Cast your mind back to (cue the ominous music),
    The Sequester.
    Once that became an actual thing and people started realizing how cutting government spending would impact them, how it would ripple out through the economy, how it would effect profits, the people who's profits would be trimmed squawked. Those Real Serious People collared the GOP "leadership" and tasked them with getting some stimulation of the, repealing parts of the sequester and cutting loose with the FUNDS, Jack!
    Austerity is NOT good for business.
    So the GOP has to escape from the box it made, hence the "realization" that deficits are "No Immediate Crisis".
    And we'll hear about Jobs Jobs Jobs(and tax cuts) next.
    OK, I'm just guessing about the conversation, but that's what it looks like to me.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 10:02:58 AM PDT

  •  If that's the case (0+ / 0-)

    and I do believe it is, why are is Obama and the Democrat's slapping our social services and 'entitlements'  on the table? All we hear from this administration is cuts, austerity, Grand Bargains chained CPI, and shared sacrifice? Why Simpson Bowles and this endless bs about fiscal cliffs of mass deception? Guess our choice as voters is which party of disaster capitalism is going to give us better brand of cat food to buy and if were lucky some peas to eat along with it.

    The Republicans are not only maniacs they are unabashed in their ideology of drowning the government and supply side trickle down. What pisses me off is that the Democrat's are going along with this bs. deficit hysteria. What kind of victory is compromise when both sides are operating on a false premise. Surreal and getting weirder by the day.

    It's apparent to anyone with a brain in their head that this has been cooked up by all of the players D's and R's alike. The kabuki is getting more and more ridiculous. I know what the Republicans are about but it's becoming clearer by the day that the Democrat's are inot better then teh evil R's in any way other then they won't probe your vagina, go full blown Ayn Rand on your ass, (hopefully) and are not theocratic fundamentalists.

    The Third Way forward is not Democratic and this administration's double speak/think has just lost it's main fear factor. Apocalyptic fiscal cliffs that the too big to fail uses to keep us all hostage and chained to an economy that's sole purpose is to impose 'austerity' and global oligarchical collectivism.  Cruel and disgusting. Tell me again why we can't have an economy that works for the common good of we the people and our country instead of creating some more wealth for Jaime Dimon? This will certainly make the kabuki harder to swallow.        

  •  Like the Jamaican lottery scammers... (0+ / 0-)

    ...these guys both incite fear and play to people's secret greed. Getting everyone stuck in 401(k)'s instead of real retirement plans was the cheese in the greed trap, making middle management cubicle dwellers feel like players; but the national debt and "entitlement reform" are the fear. Both echo the "we're running out of money!" theme. So let's be quick to come up with some grand bargain.

    It's funny that CBS can come down all whoopass on the man of color allegedly running the Jamaican scam in their news reports, but get Paul Ryan and Reince Priebus in front of Bob Schieffer and it's a best friends forever fest with softball questions, letting the sociopathic assumptions and economic BS that underlie their flim-flam game go completely unchallenged.

  •  Pls see link below to a 'video' discussion of VAT (0+ / 0-)

    taxes.  This discussion on VAT taxes came approximately 48 hours after the November election, LOL!

    This is the ultimate goal of our Washington elites, in regard to a tax overhaul.

    What we're seeing now, is 'just the tip of the iceberg,' and a dress rehearsal!

    The Lame Duck Session and the New Congress

    Apparently, many lawmakers and think tanks believe imposing a national sales (VAT) tax is the best way to finance our social insurance programs, once they slash the tax rates for the wealthy and the corporations.

    Oh, and on a somewhat related topic, it's been reported in the Financial Times that the Administration has assured Republicans that they will go along with dropping corporate tax rates, and make it "revenue neutral" for them.

    Translation:  Corporations will bear no fiscal responsibility regarding paying taxes to help with the so-called debt or deficit crisis.

    We all know what this means:  Average Americans will pull the weight of income taxes, at the same time that they experience cuts to our social insurance programs.

    Here an excerpt and a link to the Financial Times piece:

    Obama Pledges Corporate Tax Revamp

    March 17, 2013 4:40 pm
    By James Politi in Washington

    President Barack Obama has made a sweeping overhaul of the US corporate tax code a key pillar of his charm offensive towards Republicans to secure a big deficit deal, raising hopes among business groups but potentially putting the president at odds with some members of his own party.

    According to participants in closed-door meetings last week between Mr Obama and congressional Republicans, the president said he was committed to a revamp of US corporate taxes that would lower the top rate from its current level of 35 per cent, which is among the highest in the developed world.

    Crucially, Mr Obama reassured Republicans that he was looking to make the effort “revenue neutral” – meaning it would be fully paid for by curbing or scrapping tax breaks, but it would not seek to hit corporations with additional revenues for deficit reduction, which the liberal wing of the Democratic party would like to see.

    “He said something pretty interesting, he said he is for revenue neutral corporate reform,” said one Republican congressman in the House of Representatives who met Mr Obama with other members of the party. “I’ve never seen that definitive a statement from the president on that issue, so I thought that was positive. The big question is, will it be followed up by meaningful action?”

    Deb Fischer, a freshman Republican senator from Nebraska who was backed by the Tea Party, also said she was “encouraged” by the president’s remarks to Republicans in Senate last week.

    “If you’re going to look at lowering the corporate tax rate and making it revenue neutral, you’re talking about comprehensive tax reform there. So I hope that’s the direction that we can go,” Ms Fischer said.

    Last year, Mr Obama’s Treasury department under Tim Geithner proposed to lower the corporate tax rate to 28 per cent and offered several options for closing tax breaks that would pay for the effort.

    But many Republicans, and some lobbyists for business, said they were never convinced that the president was determined to ensure a revenue-neutral outcome, especially since he has supported one-off measures to curb tax breaks for certain industries, such as oil and gas, in the absence of a big fiscal deal.

    US business groups have been lobbying heavily for several years for corporate tax reform, and growing increasingly impatient that it has not been enacted. Even though many big companies pay much lower effective tax rates than 35 per cent, they argue that reforms would boost the competitiveness of American multinationals, and encourage them to repatriate and invest cash stashed overseas in America.


    "If a dog won’t come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.” -- Woodrow Wilson


    by musiccitymollie on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 01:45:08 PM PDT

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