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Thursday, December 13, 2012

 
Fiscal cliff notes 12/13

by digby

Who knows what "fiscal cliff" reports are true and which are just trial balloons or public negotiation strategy, but this one from Greg Sargent is interesting:

I spoke this morning to an official familiar with the fiscal cliff talks. He tells me that ever since Republicans rejected the first White House fiscal offer, White House negotiators have been asking Republicans to detail both the spending cuts they want and the loopholes and deductions they would close to raise revenues while avoiding a hike in tax rates for the rich.

According to the official, Republicans continue to refuse to answer.
“No answer ever since the Geithner meeting,” the official said. “To date they have been unwilling or able to identify a list of specific cuts or changes they would like or a single loophole they are willing to close.”

This is borne out by reporting in both the New York Times and Politico. How on earth can there be any progress under these circumstances?

There can't. Which indicates that either there is a separate negotiation going on about which Sargent's source is in the dark --- or the Republicans have decided to go over the cliff.

I cannot see why they wouldn't. They get to blame the Democrats for raising taxes. And then they get to vote for cutting taxes. And they get to take another whack at "entitlement" spending around the debt ceiling and sequester and blame the Democrats for that as well. What's not to like, from their perspective? (And I think the argument that they won't be able to make Obama "own" the entitlement cuts from a debt ceiling standoff is thin --- they haven't had any problem doing it before.)

The Democrats will get their holy grail --- tax hikes --- either way and will then have to stare down the ever more unpopular Republicans over spending cuts to popular programs. The only question is if they have what it takes to stand up to the Villagers who will insist that the Republicans gave in by "hurting" their constituents on the tax hikes so now it's time for the Democrats to hurt old and sick people in return. (As an act of good faith, don't you know?) It would have been easier if Democrats had put even half the energy into the defense of vital programs that they've put into their quest for higher taxes to fix the deficit, but it's certainly not impossible. After all, the people are behind them. If I didn't think they wanted some kind of "entitlement reform victory" I'd say the people could get out of this mess relatively unscathed if everything fell just right.

But again, who knows? I still think that a Grand Bargain, perhaps broken into several parts, is the desired outcome for the White House. But in the end, as with all negotiations, both sides just both want to be perceived as the winner. The Democrats are already there --- tax hikes will happen and they've masterfully set that up as the only thing that really matters. (They can do it when they want to!) But the Republicans have a higher hill to climb --- they need to score a huge win on spending cuts or look like real losers in this thing. And unfortunately for them, the only truly big scalps out there are either programs their own base values or Obamacare, which will not be on the table. So they're going to push hard for what Pelosi calls a "trophy." The question remains if the Democrats are going to give it to them.


Update: FYI --- Boehner: "debt limit should be used to bring fiscal sanity to DC"

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