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Hullabaloo


Friday, November 30, 2012

 
Fiscal kabuki

by digby

I've gotten a number of questions about why I'm not more euphoric about the White House's demands in the "fiscal cliff" negotiations, so I suppose I should explain more fully.

This is the opening bid in a negotiation and we still have no idea what the bottom line will be. The best news is that the White House didn't capitulate prematurely, but then they have the tax cut expiration looming to force the issue, so they have strong leverage. On the other hand, the earlier negotiations still show just how far the administration has been willing to go under the debt ceiling pressure so the Republicans aren't operating completely without leverage (or information about the bottom line) either.

It is not unreasonable for activists to be leery of this deal for myriad reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the fact that negotiating deficit reduction in this economic climate and around the debt ceiling and the Bush tax cuts expiring is bullshit to begin with and never should have happened. And, I'm sorry, but the Grand Bargain is Obama's idea so he's partially responsible for getting us to this place. But considering how far down that rabbit hole we already are, this is a much better starting point than we might have expected. (Of course, one never knows how much the pressure the hysterical activists, unions and others may have had in making the administration take a harder line. The squeaky wheel and all that jazz ...)

In case you were wondering whether this really is negotiation kabuki, here's an interesting article from Ryan Grim about the background of this offer. The offer has been out there for some time but the Republicans didn't take it seriously. When Geithner presented it on the Hill it appears they decided it would be a good strategy to take it public.

Republicans in Congress reacted angrily to an Obama administration proposal delivered Thursday by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that offered to avert the fiscal cliff by raising $1.6 trillion in new taxes, in exchange for some $400 billion in cuts to entitlement programs to be negotiated next year.

But the proposal wasn't new. The offer that has Republicans furious was presented to them earlier this month by President Barack Obama at the White House, according to a well-placed Democratic source, and confirmed by two GOP sources involved in the talks.

What surprised Republicans wasn't the newest offer, but who delivered it. The original offer, delivered by Obama, simply wasn't taken seriously. Republicans assumed that Obama's initial offer floated to congressional leaders would go like many others he's made in the past, and quickly soften amid staff talks. That seemed to be happening, which left them taken by surprise by Geithner.

Acknowledging that Thursday's offer was essentially the same as the one presented by the president, a GOP aide said that White House "staff has been back-channeling flexibility up until now. This was the first time their staff echoed his fantasyland numbers." A second senior GOP aide called Thursday's offer "a more detailed version" of Obama's. "The day after the White House meeting, we gave them our framework. It took them 10 days for them to give us theirs and it didn't reflect any of the conversations we have had since then," he said.

A source involved in the talks provided HuffPost with a GOP summary of the White House offer as presented Thursday. A Democratic source involved in the talks confirmed that it accurately reflects the offer, adding that it's "no different than what was discussed last Friday."

It looks to me as if the Republicans are doing their usual whiny complaining about "unfairness" to me. And the White House doesn't seem to be taking their bait. So far, so good. The question remains: are they willing to go over "the cliff"? It's ok by me. Whether Washington is ok with it remains to be seen. Fasten your seatbelts.


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