Friday, December 21, 2012

Boehner slips and falls off the cliff

Courtesy Campaign for America's Future
"[House Speaker John] Boehner nearly cried," reports Politico, after his "Plan B" end-run around fiscal negotiations with the White House fails. "It was supposed to be a moment of strength, a way to drag Obama and the Democrats toward them in the high-stakes fiscal cliff negotiations that have Washington teetering on the brink. 

Instead, it showed the world that either Boehner couldn’t bring 217 of his own members to his side, or they were unwilling to be led by him in this fight. ... Thursday’s drama irreversibly changes the dynamics in the negotiations to solve the legislative morass known as the fiscal cliff."

Right-wing groups claim credit for defeating Boehner, says the Huffington Post. "We were on the phone all day long today, talking to members of Congress," said Mike Needham, executive director of Heritage Action, the political arm of the powerful conservative nonprofit Heritage Foundation. "I think we definitely changed people's minds today, absolutely."

Paul Krugman in The New York Times writes that "the Republican crazies ... have saved the day." "Earlier this week progressives suddenly had the sinking feeling that it was 2011 all over again, as the Obama administration made a budget offer that, while far better than the disastrous deal it was willing to make the last time around, still involved giving way on issues where it had promised to hold the line — perpetuating a substantial portion of the high-income Bush tax cuts, effectively cutting Social Security benefits by changing the inflation adjustment. ... As in 2011, then, the Republican crazies are doing Mr. Obama a favor, heading off any temptation he may have felt to give away the store in pursuit of bipartisan dreams."

Robert Reich on what this tells us about the modern Republican Party. "That it has become a party of hypocrisy masquerading as principled ideology. The GOP talks endlessly about the importance of reducing the budget deficit. But it isn’t even willing to raise revenues from the richest three-tenths of one percent of Americans to help with the task. We’re talking about 400,000 people, for crying out loud."

Boenher's Plan B would have been "a lump of coal" for poor and working-class people, writes Robert Greenstein at Center for Budget and Policy Priorities: "The bill ends the improvements in tax credits for low-income working families, as well as a credit for low- and middle-income families with college costs, that the President and Congress first enacted in 2009 and that will expire at year-end under current law. 

Some 25 million Americans would lose an average of about $1,000 a year as a result, and roughly eight million children would fall into — or deeper into — poverty. A mother raising two children on full-time minimum-wage earnings of $14,500, for instance, would see her child tax credit cut from $1,725 to just $165. ... Some 1.8 million individuals would lose their SNAP [food stamp] eligibility while 280,000 low-income children would lose access to free school lunches, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). ... The changes to health reform’s subsidies that make coverage affordable for people with modest incomes would cause 350,000 to go without coverage, Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation estimates."

The progressive "Plan B" (The Washington Post): "A coalition of progressive groups is now urging the White House to push for corporate tax reform that would raise additional revenue, rather than revenue-neutral reform that would close loopholes and further lower rates (i.e. “rate-lowering, base-broadening” reform). ... There’s likely to be a progressive push to exclude Medicaid from part of the entitlement cuts, and there will be camps on both sides who will want to exclude military health care, known as Tricare, from the cuts. ... Finally, progressives will adamantly oppose an agreement to make more cuts to discretionary spending, which Obama on Monday offered to cut by $200 million. That covers all kinds of spending, from Head Start to housing vouchers, and that number could creep significantly higher."

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