Playground politics (cont'd)
Since last month’s election, Republican leaders in Congress have been demanding that President Obama come up with a detailed plan to cut the deficit and solve the upcoming fiscal deadlines without feeling any need to prepare a plan of their own. On Monday, under pressure from the White House, Republicans finally released their opening position in the negotiations — a remarkably shallow one that demonstrated a lack of seriousness in negotiations, or farsightedness in policy.
In a letter signed by Speaker John Boehner and six other House leaders, Republicans didn’t even bother to assemble their own package of spending cuts and revenue increases; they did a simple copy and paste of a few proposals made extemporaneously at a hearing last year by Erskine Bowles, the Democratic co-chairman of a deficit reduction committee.
The proposal, which Mr. Bowles quickly disavowed on Monday, purports to raise $800 billion in revenue over a decade by ending deductions and loopholes, while allowing the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich to continue. It would cut $1.2 trillion in spending, half of which would come from Medicare, Medicaid, and other health programs, including an increase in the Medicare eligibility age to 67. Another $600 billion would be cut from other unspecified spending.
Which programs would be cut? The letter doesn’t say, and Republicans don’t seem to care, as long as they blindly achieve their goal of cutting a big chunk out of government. The offer was a transparent attempt to appear responsive to Mr. Obama’s detailed proposal from last week, without doing any actual math or hard work.