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Okay, wow.  If current headlines are any indication, one would think we were right back at the grand bargain hoopla of yore, as though we'd entered a wormhole or something.  So, in the spirit of "when in Rome..." I present to you, in no particular order, some headlines and stories that ceased being news a long time ago.

Here is Harry Reid in March, 2011:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) has consistently denied there is an immediate Social Security crisis, and, therefore, he says won’t consider Social Security reform. He was at it again yesterday:

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) has consistently denied there is an immediate Social Security crisis, and, therefore, he says won’t consider Social Security reform. He was at it again yesterday:

    “Two decades from now, I’m willing to take a look at it,” said Reid, 71, in an interview to air Wednesday evening on MSNBC. “But I’m not willing to take a look at it right now.”

    Reid’s remarks may well signal a death knell for hopes that lawmakers might be able to accomplish Social Security reform this Congress.

He made similar remarks in September, far predating last week's headlines.

Harry was right then; have we any reason to doubt him now?

Here's a fun piece dated April 2012 reviewing the original debt negotiations, from Matt Bai:

Obama’s principal negotiators — Jack Lew, then his budget director, and Rob Nabors, his top aide on legislation — sent a proposal to Boehner’s team that included $1.5 trillion in new revenue over 10 years. The White House negotiators knew this had about as much chance of happening as a meteorite falling on the Capitol, but the real question was whether Boehner was willing to go some distance toward meeting them on the revenue side of the ledger
That is pretty much the dictionary definition of a "feint."  Offering entitlement cuts and what not all wrapped up in a tax-increases bow was little more than a fishing expedition to suss exactly where the GOP's limits were.

I mean if you offer something that you know has no chance of being accepted, did you really offer it?  



This might well be the best year-old news of all.  It's from the Washington Post and tells us this:

The direction of Obama's speech became apparent over the weekend, when the White House informed Democratic lawmakers and advocates for the elderly that he would not endorse the commission's recommendation to raise the retirement age and make other cuts to Social Security - the single largest federal program.
True, the article does go on to quote "administration officials" thusly:
cautioned that Obama is not necessarily taking benefit cuts off the table. They said his vision for deficit reduction will become clearer with the release of his 2012 budget request in mid-February and in the months beyond, as both parties test the limits for compromise.
"Cuts" is a funny word.  For Medicare, it could mean cuts on the provider side, or to hospitals charging $50 for administering aspirin.  Or it could mean cuts to Medicare Advantage insurers. Maybe the administration could offer to cut Medicare's budget by half of what has been recovered from fraud.  The word "cuts" can mean many things.  

And it's all but meaningless to discuss cuts to programs like Medicare and Social Security as if they happen in a vacuum, because they don't.  Social Security impacts seniors in concert with other senior programs, like Medicare, which now offers free preventive screenings thanks to Obamacare. Seniors have already saved $4 billion from closing the doughnut hole, and in keeping with this diary's theme, that figure is at least a year old.

In light of the massive Medicare expansions under Obamacare, is a decrease in the Social Security COLA increase really such a dealbreaker so as to not even be considered if we get something meaningful out of Boehner for it?  We all know medical inflation is, like, crazy higher than normal inflation.  Which is why prevention is so critically important.  Which is why preventive screenings are now free for seniors.


We could go 'round and 'round on that one day, so let's just skip right ahead to what's really important about that article.  I'll repeat it for emphasis:

his (Obama's) vision for deficit reduction will become clearer with the release of his 2012 budget request in mid-February and in the months beyond, as both parties test the limits for compromise.
So, no matter what agreement is reached right here right now regarding the fiscal cliff of sequestration, Simpson-Bowles, and tax cuts, Obama will be putting forth a new budget in February.  When our shiny new Congress with more Dems is convened, i.e., when Boehner's hand is even weaker than it is now.

If the whole point of negotiating now is to legislate around the Budget Control Act, to escape the sequester, what prevents the 2012 budget from legislating around whatever comes of these negotiations?  This is just about expiring the Bush tax cuts, and it's only round one.

Fortunately, by digging all the way back to 2010, we can see that Obama has also been looking at ways to simplify the tax code for quite some time.  Doing so would be the first major overhaul of it since 1986:

if we eliminate what happens to the tax code every decade or so — loopholes get built in, special interest provisions get built in — the nominal rates end up high, but the actual tax rates that well-connected folks or people who have good accountants pay end up being a lot lower. Ordinary people end up getting squeezed.

So typically, the idea is simplifying the system, hopefully lowering rates, broadening the base — that's something that I think most economists think would help us propel economic growth. But it's a very complicated conversation.

Indeed, it is, and there is no way Boehner wants to face it next year with his weakened, 113th-Congress hand.  He's already in trouble with Norquist no matter what he does.

Happy Tuesday!


Originally posted to Cedwyn on Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 08:04 AM PST.

Also republished by DK Poli.

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