Fiscal cliff talks turn into a game of chicken
With time running out on negotiations over ways to avert the fiscal cliff, Democrats and Republicans are engaging in a game of political chicken.
The critical negotiations over a way to avoid the fiscal cliff are fast turning into a game of chicken.
Shedding his optimistic disposition, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, summoned reporters Thursday afternoon to declare it was time that President Obama and the Democrats revealed how they intended to cut spending and slow the rate of growth of Medicare and other costly entitlements as part of a Grand Bargain of deficit reduction. “I’ve got to tell you, I’m disappointed in where we are and what has happened in the last couple of weeks,” Boehner said.
Far from seeking common ground to avert a year end calamity of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that could trigger another recession, the Democrats and Republicans appear to be trying to escort each other over the fiscal cliff. Senior administration officials had a testy meeting yesterday with Boehner and other Republicans that further soured the negotiations, and Obama is hitting the road today for Philadelphia to try to rally voters to his side in the negotiations.
While both sides fear being blamed if a deal isn’t reached before the end of the year, a new poll from CNN/ORC shows that 45 percent of the public would blame congressional Republicans – even though the Democrats control the Senate – while just 34 percent would blame the president.
“Look, the White House clearly realizes that the longer they wait, the more pressure there’s going to be on the Republicans,” said Stan Collender, a budget analyst and expert. “So they’re not rushing to get anything done. And the White House learned from the negotiations over the debt ceiling in August 2011 not to negotiate with itself. So this is a definite change in tactics that seems to be frustrating Republicans to no end.”
There is general agreement that the government should commit to about $4 trillion in savings over the coming decade, which would be achieved through a combination of spending cuts, tax increases and reforms of the federal tax code and entitlement programs. But there is almost no unanimity on how to get there.
Obama’s road map would include $1.6 trillion of new tax revenue and roughly $350 billion to $400 billion of additional savings from Medicare and other health insurance programs. The rest of the savings would largely be achieved by taking credit for the $2.1 trillion of long term savings agreed to in August 2011 as part of a deal to raise the federal debt ceiling by $2.1 trillion to its current $16.4 trillion level, according to Van Hollen. “The president’s plan has that combination of revenue and cuts,” he said. “Speaker Boehner keeps talking about revenues. We’ve never seen a proposal on revenues. Have you?”
Republicans have signaled that they might go along with $800 billion of additional revenue – the amount that Boehner and Obama discussed as part of their secret debt ceiling talks in 2011 – while insisting that the Democrats commit to far greater spending cuts.
The differences flared up yesterday after administration officials conferred behind closed doors with Boehner and Democratic congressional leaders on Capitol Hill. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and White House congressional liaison Rob Nabors signaled to the Republicans that the president still intended to seek $1.6 trillion in new taxes over the coming decade, starting with an immediate increase in the rates for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, The Washington Post reported.
While the Republicans have indicated they might go along with half that amount of new revenue, they refuse to raise the top rates. Instead, they insist they could generate the revenue by capping the amount taxpayers can claim in deductions and overhauling and simplifying the tax code to make it more efficient, an assertion the Democrats don’t buy.
Moreover, the administration demanded that Congress relinquish control over federal debt levels and approve at least $50 billion in new spending to boost the economy next year as part of an agreement to avert the year-end fiscal cliff, according to the Post.
In return, the president offered to find $400 billion over 10-years in savings from federal health and retirement programs. But those savings would be wiped out, the Republican aides said, by Obama’s proposal to extend a slew of expensive policies, including emergency unemployment benefits and a temporary payroll tax holiday that is now set to expire at the end of the year.
Republicans apparently viewed the offer as a slap in the face, and Boehner at his news conference sharply criticized Democrats for not outlining possible expenditure cuts. Republican leaders stipulated these reductions as part of a “grand bargain,” including additional tax revenues to shrink the deficit over the long term.
With only a few more weeks before the lame duck Congress runs out of time, some lawmakers said yesterday they were dismayed the negotiations aren’t further along. Sen. Jeff B. Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said, “I can’t imagine the president of the United States at this late date isn’t willing to say what he thinks and what his vision for America is. He has not discussed the $16 trillion debt. He will not tell the American people they’re on an unsustainable path.”
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said, “We’re going to have to get together. There isn’t a lot of time left. It’s negotiating time, it’s good faith time, it’s getting this done time, that’s number one. Because that’s what the American people want, the markets want some predictability and certainty. This is a no brainer. People have got to get together.”
Eric Pianin is the Washington Editor at The Fiscal Times. Subscribe to The Fiscal Times' FREE newsletter.
More from The Fiscal Times:
- Your Easy-to-Use Guide to the Fiscal Cliff
- Read Between the Lines of the Fiscal Cliff Players
- The Myth of Being ‘Rich’ at $250,000 a Year
They're going to blame this on the Republicans because they don't want to get off their lazy asses and go get a job.
Boehner, we the Democrats, and million of conscientious Republican, and Independents will remember you for ever as the indolent persistent blocker of progress for our country, and we will work hard in the next elections in 2014, to kick you out of the House of Representatives. We will pursue this task with all our heart. Our prime future agenda is to consolidate our efforts to get you fast ejected in the next elections out of a job you did not know how to do efficiently, you did not earned it, and you do not deserved it as an American! We will make you invisible by jerking you out to never return because have done so much damaged to the American people, you destroyed our credit ratings during the Budget Ceiling discussions by so much indolent opposition against the president Obama. Unfortunately, for the people of America your negative actions quickly ricochet against the middle class, stopping their opportunity for job creations, better economics future, and less poverty. We still do not understand, and cannot mentally accept a man's in your position to work for America, to be so weak and wrong leading this mass of incoherent Tea Party nuts, and Republican members put there by the people to supposedly work for the people benefits, and for the people gains only, and not for monetary growth, and big publicity names in the House of Representatives. You made yourself a detestable inhuman, with no bipartisan abilities at all. We deeply feel sick just by listening to your bully unaccomplished voice always commanding nothing but despair, no jobs, no presidential Bills passed, only future poverty, and anti -health opposition for the citizens. You need to be put out of your job quickly to save America, and we can hardly wait for the next elections to do it! You and all of you have put us through misery, poverty, and no jobs, you have discredited our USA credit ratings by not wanting to increase the Debt Ceiling, but you kissed the rear of Bush, and increased the debt ceiling many times with no scruples or hesitation, it was because you adore this Republican man of poor and devastating presidential performance as worthless and reckless, just like yours!
We will not truly be free until the last politician is strangled with the entrails of the last banker.
In times of high unemployment, the debt should be considered as a minor problem. In times of a slowly improving economy; the tax hikes will not hurt that much. And if the spending cuts take place; everyone should be cheering. What? No Takers? Obama doesn’t need votes anymore. The Senate doesn’t care; nothing of value will reach them. Everyone should be proud; none on the Representatives broke their promises. But there might be a push for 435 new house members in two years. It looks like Obama wants to work as if the Cliff was reached and how to cure it.
Raising taxes on the rich will kill job growth and the economy, and merely cause them to leave the country to avoid paying taxes. People should really pay attention to how many rich are leaving the country in the UK because of the punitive tax rates.
There needs to be an emphasis on balancing the budget and not killing the economy and jobs with higher taxes.
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Breaking up big banks is an untested solution to the too big to fail problem that attempts to isolate and dismantle large, troubled institutions while protecting the rest of the economy.
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