The House Republicans extremely unserious debt-reduction plan

Steve Benan: “House Republican leaders presented a debt-reduction “plan” to the White House yesterday, which GOP officials insist is a “serious” offer. To help underscore why it’s so very difficult to take the Republican proposal seriously, I put together this image, showing what each side would get as part of this attempt at “compromise.”

“If you’re thinking this looks a little tilted in one direction, and that no sane person could characterize this as a balanced attempt to reach a bipartisan agreement, we’re on the same page.

“But here’s the kicker: conservative activists are criticizing the GOP offer, or at least, they’re pretending to.

Scoot over Democrats. The far right is launching its own attacks against Speaker John Boehner’s “fiscal cliff” counter proposal — a sign that unrest could be brewing within his House GOP Conference.

“Sadly this plan leaves conservatives wanting,” declared Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group partially backed by billionaires David and Charles Koch, in a statement Monday.

Meanwhile, Heritage Action, the Heritage Foundation’s lobbying wing, alerted its members in an e-mail: “Not only are Republican leaders asking their members to go back on their promise not to raise taxes on the American people, but they appear unwilling to fight for the bold entitlement reforms that won them the House in 2010.”

So, as far as the right-wing GOP base is concerned, a debt-reduction deal in which Republicans make no concessions at all represents an enormous sellout.

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I hope every single Republican base voter takes a long, cold look at what their leadership has in store for the average non-wealthy American citizen — including THEM. Step away from Fox, idiots.

“It is not the president’s job to tame John Boehner’s crazy-ass caucus for him…”

There may not be a “deal.” Smart people have speculated that we may not need a “deal” and, in any case, a “deal” is not necessarily the be-all and end-all of “governing.” I have said more than once that it is not the president’s job to tame John Boehner’s crazy-ass caucus for him. The president was re-elected on a slate of policies that the country wanted. He has no affirmative obligation to water these down just to “get a deal done” for the sake of appearances, just as he is under no affirmative action to offer up Medicare and Social Security as blood sacrifices just so that John Boehner and his crazy caucus will be placated. The country must be governed, It does not necessarily have to be governed efficiently, as long as the manifest will of the people is somehow expressed through it. Perhaps the people would like it to run more smoothly, but they want most for it to run in such a way that it responds to their expressed wishes. For example, there is not clamoring in the country — or any real need — for the kind of austerity agenda to which all the fiscal cliffies seem to be trying to accustom us. If inefficiency is all that saves us from a damaging set of policies, then god bless inefficiency.

— Charles Pierce on the Fiscal Cliff

Call your representative and tell them that if they want to keep their job, they’re expected to do more than vote present — and that you (with a majority of Americans) want tax increases on higher incomes, that tax cuts for everyone else should remain in place, no loopholes or payroll tax holiday should be eliminated for the working and middle-class, and if GOP members can’t or won’t elaborate or verbalize exactly what spending they want to cut, then they need to go along with the plan outlined by the President.

Fiscal cliff: the House is in session this week and next week … then, vacation.

“If we can get a few House Republicans to agree as well I’ll sign this bill as soon as Congress sends it my way. I’ve got to repeat, I’ve got a pen.” — President Obama urging Congress to pass his tax plan before Christmas. (via CNN)

The House is in session this week and next week. Then they go on vacation. If the past is any guide, the GOP members will happily leave Washington regardless if a solution to the fiscal cliff is agreed to beforehand. 

The Lamest Generation

“When our children and grandchildren look back to assess our performance during this era, they will bitterly note that during a time when we should have been aggressively expanding public investment to employ all of our many unemployed people, launch bold projects for national renewal and progressive development, save our planet and light a rocket under our massively underutilized productive capacity to build a prosperous future for our progeny, we instead chose to get bogged down in ridiculous and priggish bean-counting and budgetary hand-wringing. Right now, it looks like we will be known as the generation that chose stagnation, blinkered bookkeeping and fiscal tunnel vision over dynamic national progress – a weak, cowardly and unimaginative people – the Lamest Generation.”

— Dan Kervick

Don’t blame both sides: the GOP has offered exactly NOTHING to avoid the fiscal cliff

We’re so used to the Republican Congress doing nothing that now the media and pundits consider that to be something they’re actively “doing.”

Greg Sargent reminds everyone that both sides are not equally to blame in this fiscal cliff / deficit debacle:

There is an actual set of facts here. They are central to understanding the current situation, and belong in every account of what is going wrong:

1) Democrats have offered a comprehensive proposal that meaningfully details the tax hikes they would like to see and contains substantial deficit reduction, but Republican leaders have not offered a comprehensive proposal that meaningfully details the spending cuts they would like to see. And what Republicans have proposed — such as it is — doesn’t contain nearly as much in deficit reduction as the Dem plan does.

2) Many experts believe that substantial deficit reduction simply requires Republicans to drop their opposition to raising tax rates on the rich.

Look, this is just a sucker’s game. What Republicans really mean when they demand that Obama “lead” is that they want him to propose bigger concessions up front so Republicans can denounce them as insufficient — which they would do no matter what he proposed — pulling the debate further and further in their direction.

Meanwhile, even as the White House has willingly proposed Medicare cuts, Republicans still refuse to give ground on raising tax rates for the wealthy. (This basic imbalance is not changed, even if you think the White House’s proposed Medicare cuts are insufficient.) So here’s a simple question for any pundit who is tempted to blame both sides equally for the impasse: Can you show us how substantial deficit reduction can be achieved without higher tax rates on the rich? If not, then both sides are not equally to blame.

Sargent adds the following for consideration:

* Why Obama is drawing hard line over tax hikes: It isn’t complicated. Here’s the answer, buried in this morning’s big New York Times analysis of Obama’s “unyielding” stance: In his first four years in office, Mr. Obama has repeatedly offered what he considered compromises on stimulus spending, health care and deficit reduction to Republicans, who either rejected them as inadequate or pocketed them and insisted on more. Republicans argued that Mr. Obama never made serious efforts at compromise and instead lectured them about what they ought to want rather than listening to what they did want.

* Why Republicans refuse to detail the spending cuts they want: Paul Krugman gets to the heart of it: It’s very hard to come up with spending cuts that would seriously reduce the deficit without cutting deeply into very popular programs, which is why Republicans want Dems to go first. The problem, as always, is that cutting spending is popular in the abstract but not when the talk turns to specifics. And this time around, things are different: Because Democrats are the ones with the leverage, they don’t have to acquiesce to the GOP demand that they propose spending cuts first.

* Dems should not get hoodwinked into proposing cuts first: E.J. Dionne makes that argument in his column this morning, and this captures the Republican strategy perfectly:

They seem to hope a deal will be born by way of immaculate conception, with Obama taking ownership of all the hard stuff while they innocently look on.

President Obama dares the Republicans to propose SOMETHING they’d cut

Something… anything! Spineless wonders that they are, they won’t do it.

Paul Krugman: “In the ongoing battle of the budget, President Obama has done something very cruel. Declaring that this time he won’t negotiate with himself, he has refused to lay out a proposal reflecting what he thinks Republicans want. Instead, he has demanded that Republicans themselves say, explicitly, what they want. And guess what: They can’t or won’t do it.

“No, really. While there has been a lot of bluster from the G.O.P. about how we should reduce the deficit with spending cuts, not tax increases, no leading figures on the Republican side have been able or willing to specify what, exactly, they want to cut.”

Criticized as weak in past talks, Obama takes harder line: “Amid demands from Republicans that President Obama propose detailed new spending cuts to avert the year-end fiscal crisis, his answer boils down to this: you first.

“Mr. Obama, scarred by failed negotiations in his first term and emboldened by a clear if close election to a second, has emerged as a different kind of negotiator in the past week or two, sticking to the liberal line and frustrating Republicans on the other side of the bargaining table.

“Disciplined and unyielding, he argues for raising taxes on the wealthy while offering nothing new to rein in spending and overhaul entitlement programs beyond what was on the table last year. Until Republicans offer their own new plan, Mr. Obama will not alter his. In effect, he is trying to leverage what he claims as an election mandate to force Republicans to take ownership of the difficult choices ahead.”

Here’s their big ‘fallback’ plan — very courageous: