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Pulling the Trigger on the Fiscal Cliff
Author: Raine    Date: 11/26/2012 15:13:15

All this talk of the fiscal cliff is nothing more than GOP-created and media-fueled chaotic hysterics, nothing more - nothing less. I'm going to go back to our blog archives to lay out the background. On August 1 2011 I wrote of the *deal* that was cut after the Republicans made hay out of raising the Debt ceiling. The deal was made nearly a year and a half ago after the GOP requested this super committee be formed in return fo ra clean debt ceiling vote:
I perused this quick face sheet from WaPo. You should too. I refuse to become part of the outrage brigade that I am seeing all over so many social networking sights.

I will remind people of this, with regard to a "Clean Debt Ceiling" vote (especially for those that wanted it) we actually had one back in May.
From the beginning, the Obama White House wanted a "clean" hike to the debt ceiling... in other words, an increase not tied to any substantial spending reforms or cuts.

That dream just died.

In a largely symbolic vote, the clean hike failed 318-97.
We were told of this back in April. You can see that at that point, the White house released this information: FACT SHEET: The President's Framework for Shared Prosperity and Shared Fiscal Responsibility. I think it's important to compare it to the "Deal" that we are going to see voted on today: Fact Sheet: Bipartisan Debt Deal: A Win for the Economy and Budget Discipline -- and what is MOST important to me, is that there are NO Cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. In other words: The Ryan Budget deal appears to be dead. The agreement that is out there now, looks eerily similar to the one the White House sought. Considering there is a Republican majority in the House, I'm surprised the end result isn't far worse.

The result was what used to be called the *trigger*
If the congressional committee fails to result in approval of at least $1.2 trillion in defict reduction, automatic across-the-board cuts of $1.2 trillion would be enacted in agency budgets, split half and half between domestic programs and defense. Programs for the poor, including Medicaid and Social Security, would be exempted. But Medicare payments to providers could be hit.

The trigger has been rebranded to add an extra touch of hysteria and is now being called The Fiscal Cliff™ due to the failure of the Super Committee. The were given 4 months to apporve of 1.2 trillion dollars in deficit reduction. Those four months came and went and when the Super Committee proved to not be so super, I had this to say:
For a little background:
Under the deal President Obama signed on Tuesday, the top four Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress will each appoint three members to a special committee that must recommend by November 23 at least $1.5 trillion in additional deficit reduction through 2021. If a majority of committee members endorse a proposal, that plan is guaranteed a floor vote in both chambers by December 23 without amendment or Senate filibuster.

Those rules provide this group with vastly more leverage to stabilize the nation’s finances than any previous commission has possessed. The procedures effectively preempt a minority veto—either through the Senate filibuster or the informal House rule that legislation reaches the floor only if a “majority of the majority” party supports it. Because a majority proposal from the committee could be passed with any combination of Republican and Democratic votes, it provides a unique opportunity for the center of both parties to impose a balanced solution on the ideological vanguard of left and right.
Now, I am going to ask for your reading patience here today.

You will recall that a failure for the super committee to come to a (simple) majority consensus would cause a trigger.
* Crucially, Obama will vow to veto any entitlement cuts if revenue increases are not part of the solution.

That last one is key — a veto threat is a line the White House was unwilling to draw during the fall of 2010, when the battle over extending the Bush tax cuts was in full swing.
You will recall that in lieu of this trigger the President offered his own ideas to cut the deficit. From Think Progress:
What’s in it?

Well, $1.5 trillion of it is higher taxes. About half of that is the expiration of the “rich people only” portion of the Bush tax cuts. The rest comes from closing loopholes and for the proposed new millionaire’s minimum tax so that high-income individuals won’t be paying lower marginal rates than the middle class.

Then you have about $1 trillion in war savings as the fighting winds down in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last, you have the domestic spending element. That includes changes worth $248 billion to Medicare and $72 billion to Medicaid which the administration is promising fall on providers rather than patients and don’t involve any deep changes to the basic nature of the programs... There are also some other domestic spending cuts, worth about $200 billion...

the “other” cuts, which are as follows:
— $33 billion from agriculture subsidies.
— $42.5 billion from Federal employee retirement benefits, on both the civilian and military side.
— $4.1 billion from the disposal of unused government assets.
— $92.2 billion from restructuring government operations and reducing government liabilities.
— $77.6 billion from improving Federal program management and reducing waste and abuse.

Go back and look at what the trigger is. It's actually pretty much what the President wanted all along. He is willing to make cuts all over the place. The GOP is balking at cutting defense spending (and of course -- raising taxes for the rich)
On August 21 2011 Greg Sargent wrote in WaPo's PlumLine:
But since the press is going to be obsessing over the supercommittee’s failure for days to come, and since we will be inundated with reams of bogus false equivalence reporting about it, it’s worth stating as clearly as possible what really transpired.

And so: Any news outlet that doesn’t leave readers and viewers with an absolutely clear sense that the primary sticking point was over whether the rich should see their contribution to deficit reduction increase or decrease is letting down its customers.
Basically, here we are a year later, and nothing has changed. Congressional obstruction continues and the media is failing at the one job it has: to properly inform and report.

In All Fairness, I'm sticking with the prediction I made last July.
President Obama has been consistent and steadfast. He promised to return to this issue in 2010. Last time around we saw DADT repealed, we have had the ACA upheld in court -- he is keeping his promises in spite of the obstacles thrown his way. Don't believe me? Look here. The GOP fought EVERY one of those items.

We will see tax fairness this year. I believe the GOP has run out of excuses. Obama gave them the tax cut extension 2 years ago, in return for DADT being repealed-- and the economy reacted exactly as many suspected. While some may criticize President Obama for not doing things fast enough, perhaps the long game is worth it in the end.


101 comments (Latest Comment: 11/27/2012 01:18:28 by livingonli)
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