Fiscal Cliff News Round-Up & Open Thread

Fiscal Cliff background. So, as you may recall, fully one million years ago, the Obama administration + Congressional Democrats struck a terrible budget deal (Budgetfuck 2011) with Congressional Republicans that kicked the can of finding a functional economic deal down the road. To now.

And so the Dems and the GOP are back to arguing about whether tax cuts solve everything, whether we really need a social safety net in this country, and whether indigent children can actually survive on bootstraps. Or whatever.

This is when that whole Whoooooooooooops Obama Is Actually Not an Economic Liberal thing becomes super important. As well as when the Uh-Oh Obama's Negotiations Always Start with Concessions to Conservatives Who Don't Play Fair thing rears its big stupid head.

So far, however, it's looking like the President might actually be paying attention to the idea that the country gave him a fat mandate for Election Day this year, and is making noises about not compromising on entitlement programs. FINGERS CROSSED!

Anyway, here's some of what I've been reading about the Fiscal Cliff this morning. Please feel welcome and encouraged to leave other links and resources in comments.

Reuters—Obama to Meet Executives, Go to Pennsylvania for Fiscal Push: "President Barack Obama will launch a multipronged push this week to garner support for his proposals to solve U.S. fiscal problems, meeting with business executives at the White House and visiting a small business in Pennsylvania to press his case. Obama has sought to go on the offensive since his re-election on November 6 in the fight with Republicans over the 'fiscal cliff' - a combination of tax increases and spending cuts that would go into effect next year if the two sides do not reach a deal to stop it."

Greg Sargent in the WaPoReasons to Be Encouraged About Fiscal Cliff's Endgame: "Now this is encouraging. I'm told that representatives of major unions and progressive groups met privately this morning with senior Obama administration officials at the White House — and were pleased with what they heard. Things can always change at a moment's notice. But attendees at this meeting came away convinced — for now — that the White House firmly believes it has the leverage in the fiscal cliff talks, and has no intention of budging on the demand for higher tax rates from the rich or on other core priorities."

Steve Benen at the Maddow Blog—Dems to Avoid 2010 Misstep on Debt Ceiling: "Just as important as what was in the agreement [two years ago] is what was omitted: the White House and congressional Democrats did not include a debt-ceiling increase in the deal, perhaps hoping Republicans wouldn't be so reckless as to hold the nation hostage in 2011. We know how that turned out. Two years later, Congress and the White House are once again having an interesting conversation about taxes, and once again there's the possibility of a deliberate, man-made debt-ceiling crisis on the horizon. Democrats don't intend to make the same mistake twice."

David Dayen at FDL—Durbin Outlines Democratic Approach on Grand Bargain:
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who has almost become the liaison to the left for cuts to federal health care programs in the grand bargain, gave a speech today at the Center for American Progress that included a couple important points:

• Durbin sequenced the provisions of the deal, saying that Republicans would have to build the framework on taxes, which includes an increase in the top marginal rates, before any Democrat will even begin to talk about social insurance programs. This seems like a hardline stance, but it just mirrors the dominant conversation, which has focused on taxes to the exclusion of practically everything else.

• Though Durbin has sought to bring rank-and-file Democrats along on a grand bargain that would include cuts to those social insurance programs, he set out some red lines. In addition to rejecting the privatization of Medicare or Social Security and the block granting of Medicaid – a common tactic to reject the extreme view to provide space for more modest but still damaging cuts – Durbin took Social Security almost entirely off the table. This matches White House Press Secretary Jay Carney's statements yesterday. It does appear that’s been filed away for the time being.

In addition, Durbin said, regarding spending cuts on anti-poverty social programs, "Let me be clear: Those cuts will not happen." And he sought to line up with the Administration’s viewpoint that any changes to Medicare and Medicaid can happen without cuts to benefits, through payment reforms or provider cuts. This would "strengthen" those programs through the reform, he said. He also wanted to exempt infrastructure spending fully from any cuts.
As for the private sector opposition: Pat Garofalo at Think Progress—CEOs Looking to 'Fix the Debt' by Cutting Social Security Sit on Huge Retirement Accounts: "The 71 Fix the Debt CEOs of public companies have average retirement assets of $9.1 million. Of these 71 CEOs, 54 participate in their company's retirement programs and have collective pension assets of $649 million, or more than $12 million per CEO — enough to generate a $65,873 pension check each month for life. In contrast, the average monthly Social Security check for retired workers is $1,237."


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