Sunday, October 4 , 2015, 1:54 pm | Rain Fog/Mist 61º

Joe Conason: Why Boehner’s ‘Offer’ Just Doesn’t Add Up

By Joe Conason |

If President Barack Obama honestly wants to negotiate an agreement with Republicans before the year-end fiscal deadline, he must be deeply frustrated. And if he doesn’t really want to negotiate with them, then he should be delighted, for the same reason: Their latest “offer” laid before him by House Speaker John Boehner demonstrates again their refusal to reveal their true intentions — and their inability to do simple arithmetic.

Consider their treatment of Medicare, the popular social insurance program for seniors that Republicans have always despised. They have just emerged from a long national campaign in which they repeatedly and falsely claimed to “protect” Medicare from the president — whom they accused of wanting to slash $716 billion from the program — but now they complain that he won’t cut it enough. The Obama cuts were mythical, but the Boehner budget proposal includes at least $600 billion in Medicare and Medicaid reductions.

Worse still, the Republicans propose to perform this crude surgery on Medicare without the slightest explanation of where they would cut. Washington rumors suggest that they would achieve some of those cuts over the next 10 years by raising the eligibility age by two years to 67 and by increasing premiums for more affluent beneficiaries.

As Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities pointed out on Tuesday, however, those changes would not begin to achieve the savings required by the Boehner proposal.

The same problem undermines the other aspects of Boehner’s proposal, which includes $600 billion in additional unspecified cuts. Either their arithmetic doesn’t work — or, as Greenstein worries, they mean to inflict severe cuts in health and other services that would harm elderly and poor Americans, but want to conceal those consequences from the public.

Yet there is an even deeper problem with Boehner’s arithmetic. The Republicans are fighting to extend all the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest 2 percent along with everyone else — but their alternative proposals are utterly inadequate to compensate for the $1.3 trillion in revenues lost by continuing those cuts for the rich.

To “offer” $800 billion in new “revenues” obtained by eliminating deductions rather than raising rates simply doesn’t work, as a matter of basic math. It isn’t nearly enough money.

If Republican leaders cannot do the arithmetic, then it is impossible to negotiate with them.  If they can do the arithmetic but insist on falsifying the answers, then it is both unwise and impossible to negotiate with them.

Unless and until the Republicans start talking about real numbers that can actually add up, there is nothing to be gained from pretending to negotiate. Nor should the president start negotiating with himself, as he has sometimes done in the past. Instead, he ought to make sure that the opposition understands what will happen when they fail to act responsibly.

After Jan. 1, he will bring them an offer they cannot refuse to restore cuts for the 98 percent — and they will be held accountable for any consequences caused in the meantime by their stalling.

Joe Conason is editor in chief of Click here for more information, or click here to contact him. Follow him on Twitter: @JConason.

comments powered by Disqus

» on 12.06.12 @ 07:25 AM

The overwhelming majority of Americans favor letting the Bush tax cuts to the top 2% expire. They spoke in November and only the pigheaded Norquistites didn’t get the message.

» on 12.06.12 @ 12:00 PM

The majority of Americans are idiots. The taxes the president wants to impose on the top 2% amount to $98 billion out of $1.0 trillion in deficits. That’s a measly 10%. The GOP is trying to get your stubborn, run-the-economy-and-our-currency-into-the-ground president to cut friggen SPENDING, which of course he doesn’t want to do because for him it’s what makes him popular with the hip hop culture, not what is fiscally responsible.

As for our FU-to-our-children-gimmie-my-stuff-now Obama voters, just like last term someone has to be the adult, obviously the voters aren’t.

» on 12.06.12 @ 04:20 PM

So unfair to Boehner. Here’s your average used-to-be blue collar family from Ohio, who’s trying to be House speaker, after years of hard trench work.

Does he get to wine and dine with K Street lobbyists, like former Speaker Hasert
used to, with Texans Tom De Lay and Dick Armey, in an easy-going Spend and
Spend Republican Congress that never bothered with new revenue, or taxes?


The poor guy gets saddled with a Tea Bag caucus sub-group who truly believe
that Joe McCarthy was right, and that Ford was a liberal, and Reagan uncertain
in his beliefs, that climate change doesn’t exist, and that the earth is flat.

So you’ve got Boehner trying to get any program through his own caucus onto the House floor, before he has to privately beg the Democrats for votes on the floor to pass anything.

Every issue becomes a protracted battle between persuasion, survival, and Tea.

You are expecting a Speaker who inherited the disaster of years of Greenspan-
Cheney-Rove-Bush freakonomic misfeasance to now ditch Grover Norquist, and
try to drag the Party of NO! into the real world?

Come on!

If Boehner did that, we’d back away from the “fiscal cliff” for a few months or
years. But Eric Cantor or Paul Ryan or Clint Eastwood’s empty chair would be
the next Speaker.

So please, cut this guy some slack. Piling on isn’t allowed in football, and it
shouldn’t be in syndicated columns either.

» on 12.06.12 @ 08:27 PM

Publius, your side won, but rather than show some modicum of civility, like the rest of your ilk, you continue with this pedantic trash mouth slander. What in the world is wrong with you people?

I understand that now that you own this shitstorm coming down that you are a bit nervous and maybe you aren’t as smart as you think. But can the trash talk. It makes you sound like a third grader.

» on 12.06.12 @ 09:47 PM

An50 , who I prefer to call IKE (I Know Everything), is off on another of his laughable tirades. This spewing of tired inaccuracies is symptomatic of the overall decline of his beloved Tea Party. People are just plain tired of the pigheaded Norquistite obstructionism. Many now believe that November was just the precursor to the further decline of the increasingly irrelevant GOP. 
Regarding spending , Obama is the first to admit we are catastrophically overspending. We will see further progress on spending reductions under his leadership. Meanwhile , consider the facts below when evaluating the tripe that IKE types try to feed us.
  Average spending increases per year , by president , in descending order.
George W.Bush 10.2%
Reagan 8.6%
Kennedy 7.1%
George H.W. Bush 5.8%
Clinton 4.0%
Eisenhower 3.6%
Obama 1.4%

» on 12.06.12 @ 10:07 PM

One minute IKE says “The majority of Americans are idiots” in retort to poll results showing that Americans support Obama in allowing the unfunded Bush tax cuts to expire.
  Out of the other side of IKE’S mouth comes -
“Like the rest of your ilk, you continue with this pedantic trash mouth slander”.
In his world it’s only slander if directed at his beloved Tea Party loonies. ( Yup , that there is slander . Well deserved I might add.)

» on 12.07.12 @ 11:31 AM

Just remember Willie its all yours now.  And yes I do trash talk, quite a bit but I do not use vulgar sexually derogative terms like “tea bag”, something you dopes on the left just can’t seem to avoid.

As for spending increases, what a moron. Take a look at GDP and revenue before you cheer lead this mobster you elected. Its one thing to increase spending if there is a corresponding increase in revenue, like from a growing economy, its quite another to borrow that increase now matter how small when you have nothing coming in to pay for it.

That is why your ideologically driven president is gunning to increase spending even more, willing to pass economy crippling tax increases and print more money, because like you he is economically an idiot and believes in fairy dust and other loopy ideas.

But what the heck, like I said its all yours now baby, you voted for it and now you own it.

» on 12.07.12 @ 08:50 PM


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