One of the big topics in Washington these days is “the fiscal cliff.” What it really means is that all the tax rates return to the level they were before the Bush tax cuts, and major cuts in government spending (the sequester) take effect. Both sides consider this a bad thing, although the particular part of it they consider “bad things” is different. The President has presented his plan, which has … shocked … the Republicans. Apparently, his proposals came at them from out of the blue, which demonstrates that they hadn’t paid any attention to what he’d been saying during the campaign, the platform he was running on, and the various policy statements his campaign headquarters was issuing. After wringing their hands, crying about how unfair it was that the President, the press, and the American public expected them to issue their own proposals, they finally relented.
which resulted in predictable reactions. Josh Barro at Bloomberg:
1. It’s not really a proposal — it’s just a set of headline numbers without specific policies.
2. The description of tax reform makes little sense.
3. The proposal does not fully avert the fiscal cliff.
Steve Benen says it’s not a counter-offer:
To call this a “counteroffer” is to strip the word of meaning. Under the GOP plan, Republicans get the more than $1 trillion in spending cuts Obama already gave them; Republicans get the entitlement cuts they want; Republicans get hundreds of billions of dollars in additional cuts to programs they haven’t identified; and Republicans get all of the Bush-era tax rates they’ve prioritized.
This isn’t a “counteroffer”; it’s a Christmas wish list written by kids without access to calculators.
Michael Tomasky points out that saying it’s based on what Erskine Bowles proposed is a lie:
It’s always the same story with these people. They have these policy goals that they know are quite unpopular outside their besotted 30 percent, so they’ll never put specifics to them until the last possible second. But until then, anyone would be a fool to trust them. The only thing they really care about is cutting high-end tax rates, but they know full well that they can’t say that, so they make us all play these silly games.
I’m sure Boehner and crew thought they were being clever by basing their proposal on a 2011 op-ed by Erskine Bowles. But within a couple of hours of the Boehner plan’s release, it was denounced by none other than Erskine Bowles.
Paul Krugman calls it “Three-card budget monte.”
It goes without saying that the Republican “counteroffer” is basically fake. It calls for $800 billion in revenue from closing loopholes, but doesn’t specify a single loophole to be closed; it calls for huge spending cuts, but aside from raising the Medicare age and cutting the Social Security inflation adjustment — moves worth only around $300 billion — it doesn’t specify how these cuts are to be achieved. So it’s basically the Paul Ryan method: scribble down some numbers and pretend that you’re a budget wonk with a Serious plan.
This has been their mode of operation for the past two years. Avoid saying anything specific, but demand that the President tell them what they want, so they can deny it. Way back in 2010, they were able to ride a wave of dissatisfaction with the pace of economic recovery, promising to focus on jobs. The public wanted them to do that, and to work together with the Democrats to do so. On entering office, they promptly ditched that, although they did paste “jobs” on bills that were dead on arrival, and proceeded to block everything they could. The result was the least productive Congress in decades, one where even standard, non-controversial, “keeping the lights on” bills languished or were blocked. In 2012, President Obama ran on his plans, and his accomplishments. Democrats around the country ran on it as well. They won.
Apparently reality hasn’t cracked the Republican’s bubble yet. The American people told them, in no uncertain terms, that they expected the Republicans to stop obstructing, and get serious. That their “ideas” weren’t acceptable. What’s equally apparent is that the Republicans haven’t got any new ideas, or even a clue about negotiating. They’re still trying to avoid accepting that they’re being required to help govern, and that means they have to put forward specifics and compromise.
Instead, faced with a “fiscal cliff” they helped create, they’ve decided to act like lemmings
It doesn’t end well for the lemmings, and it’s not going to end well for the Republicans.