President Obama is going to try to flip the idea of his Grand Bargain with a new trade
of taxes for jobs. But that doesn't mean Grand Bargain 1.0, entitlement cuts for taxes, isn't still proceeding on a separate track. It is. The bullshit caucus
, the Republican senators who went around leader Mitch McConnell to broker a filibuster deal with Harry Reid, are still being wooed by senior administration staff, including Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, and it still puts Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block
The talks are aimed at averting a partial government shutdown this fall that would result if the two parties can't agree on federal spending levels for the next fiscal year, as now seems likely, or strike a deal to raise the debt ceiling. Treasury SecretaryJacob Lew, appearing in a series of Sunday television interviews, predicted the U.S. would likely hit its statutory borrowing limit, now $16.7 trillion, sometime after Labor Day. If lawmakers fail to lift the cap, the U.S. will be unable to borrow money to pay all its bills. [...]
Republicans, for their part, in the talks have suggested changes to Medicare, including switching to a slower-growing gauge of inflation that would reduce benefits, and "means-testing" the program by charging well-to-do senior citizens higher premiums. In the past, Mr. Obama has said he could consider both ideas as part of a larger deal. Republicans also proposed raising the eligibility age for Medicare, a concept the White House dislikes. [...]
The meetings have been relatively informal, with Republicans offering ideas for where to find budget savings which, if implemented, could diminish the across-the-board cuts to the budget. Republicans have made clear they won't accept raising new tax revenues to erase the sequester, a Senate GOP aide said. [...]
Mr. Lew said on Sunday the White House wants to replace the sequester with a combination of changes to entitlement programs and adjustments to the tax code—often code for raising revenue by eliminating tax breaks.
Great. Republicans have ruled out new tax revenue and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough "and other senior aides" are still meeting with them, still offering up benefits cuts from Medicare and Social Security [the "slower-growing gauge of inflation" would be the chained CPI for Social Security, not Medicare as the story suggests]. Once upon a time, President Obama promised
no entitlement cuts unless he got revenue. And yet, here we still are with benefit cuts on the table and no new taxes on the table. Now he's negotiating for adjustments to the tax code, which Republicans will probably insist on making revenue neutral.
With his latest pivot to the economy, and a renewed focus on income inequality and the middle class and jobs, the last thing President Obama should be doing is offering up these programs—which are so vital to the income security of the majority of seniors—for cuts. Especially when he's making the offer to Republicans who are as intractable on revenue as ever.