On Revenues, Republicans Cross their Line in the Sand

November 9th, 2011 at 12:50 am | 68 Comments |

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Well, what do you make of that? It just proves once again that little is new under the sun. Democrat’s message-maker and message enforcer, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, took the airwaves almost at the same time that the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (JSC) members were exchanging serious offers and counter-offers.

Schumer’s message, of course, was that the JSC would fail in its work and that failure was because Republicans just wouldn’t listen to any talk of raising taxes.

In our last dispatch from the JSC front, we mentioned that it was about this time in negotiations that someone would rush to the microphones and begin to place blame. Blame-placer par excellence Schumer swept in and revealed the worst kept secret in town—unwilling to make any concessions on structural spending changes, especially on entitlements, Democrats now seek to absolve themselves of any guilt.

Schumer was wrong that Republicans didn’t offer tax increases. The GOP’s latest offer crossed the “great line in the sand” and began a discussion of revenue increases. In return, Republicans (perhaps naively) expected a counter-offer from the Democrats. This is normally how negotiations proceed. But, fearful that his party would lose the ability to use Medicare as a weapon against Republicans 11 months from now, Schumer went on the offensive–this kind of potential progress had to stop.

Roll Call elevated the Schumer story to the top spot in Tuesday’s edition, as did Politico. Other reporters simply asked (and with a wink), “Why do you think Schumer would do that?” (The Schumer sortie came after the weekend’s Washington Post editorial page concentrated on the failure of the GOP to agree to increasing revenues.)

Schumer, one might recall, was the Senator who strongly advised Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to reject Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad’s budget resolution earlier this year. And, in a Democratic Senate Policy Lunch earlier this year, Reid did just that.

Now comes a tipping point for the JSC membership. The media glare and the world market focus on Europe will begin to fade once the European Central Bank resolves the Italian dilemma. World attention will gradually drift away from events in North Africa, as those nations stumble towards some semblance of stability. Then, markets and other nations will focus on America—its policies, its leadership, its strength. Can the JSC, Congress, and the President anticipate the coming shift, or will they simply be swept under by it?

Ironically, Schumer’s comments came just after House Speaker John Boehner said on national television that Republicans were willing to accept an increase in revenues.

Prediction of failure, before the fact, carries risks. Some voters may think that Schumer and his colleagues want failure. If Democrats begin to be perceived as the party of “no,” taking that mantle away from the Republicans, then their electoral problems multiply. With a President clearly either frustrated by, bored by, or confused by all the budget dramas so far this year, and the Democrats’ major message-maker predicting failure, Republicans may begin to right a ship that has been listing badly in recent months.

It will be interesting to see if President Obama shortens his trip to Bali and elsewhere in order to return to Washington, D.C., before the November 23rd deadline for JSC action. It reminds one of the European political leaders earlier this year insisting on taking their summer vacations while the European Union confronted its most serious problem since its creation.

In light of the fact that most of those European political leaders now have resigned, pledged to resign, or seen their governments crack underneath them, it might be wise for the President to keep his flight plans flexible the last 10 days of November.

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68 Comments so far ↓

  • paul_gs

    Just like the debt ceiling debate, Democrats will try to manufacture a crisis.

    • Fart Carbuncle

      True dat.

      And Schumer…he is really a partisan hack/clown. If there ever was a face to the Marxist left, he is it.

      No wonder taxpayers are moving out of his Rust Belt state in droves.

      • armstp

        Yeah… Schumer is some marxist. The guy who takes the most campaign contributions from Wall Street.

      • animal

        Marxist? . . . Thoughtful.

        Top 5 states by per capita income:
        1. Connecticut 2. Massachussets 3. New Jersey 4. Maryland 5. New York
        Boy! Those Marxist rust-belters sure drive a lot of Mercedes! I can sure see why they are all moving to Mississippi, Iowa and Oklahoma.
        **special mention to #6. Wyoming, The Saudi Arabia of the Lower 48.

        • armstp

          Lets not forget that NY puts far more federal tax dollars in than it takes out and lets not forget that it is all those Marxist redSstates that take far more federal tax dollars than they put in. Income redistribution from all the blue States like NY, California, Illinois to almost every single red State.

          Which State do you come from Fart?

      • ottovbvs

        Yeah Fart, CT is so full of communists we’re going to change the name to the People’s Republic of CT.

      • medinnus

        Ah, the repressed homosexual tools of the Koch rear their empty heads.

        • paul_gs

          The repressed homosexual meme. That’s so 1990′s.

        • medinnus

          Not at Penn State, where the very vocal Conservative Republican coach has his finger caught in the pederasty jar. Of course, most of the GOP still live in the fantasyland of the 1980…

    • armstp

      Paul_gs

      How do you figure the Democrats manufactured a crisis? Was it not the GOP who made the debt ceiling an issue in the first place with many of the GOP’s leaders actually encouraging a no vote?

      Not paying the countries bills is pretty serious. Just the threat of not paying the bills resulted in a credit rating down grade.

      • paul_gs

        Why is discussing the terms of a debt ceiling increase considered a crisis? I consider that normal politics.

        As for the rating downgrade, it was decided well before the talks even started.

        Democrats got the hefty increase they wanted and didn’t have to implement any immediate cuts either.

        • larocquj

          paul_gs,

          “As for the rating downgrade, it was decided well before the talks even started.”

          So, you work for Standard & Poors then? Perhaps you can provide some evidence to support this claim? I’d be interested to see it.

          “Democrats got the hefty increase they wanted and didn’t have to implement any immediate cuts either.”

          The increase to the debt ceiling was required in order for the government to meet its existing obligations, not to increase spending. That’s what the appropriations process is for. Last time I checked the government was comprised of Democrats and Republicans, and both parties have voted for government spending in the past.

          It is extraordinarily disingenuous for you to suggest otherwise. Simply repeating a mischaracterization of the debt ceiling debate over and over will not make it true.

        • armstp

          Paul,

          A “discussion” on the debt ceiling. That is a funny one. More like hold a gun to the head of America and saying do a bunch of spending cuts or else we default the country by not paying our bills.

          And more complete BS from you. A big part of the credit rating downgrade was because of the instability and uncertainty caused by the Republicans and their willingness to take the country into a default. So how could the downgrade been decided on before the entire crisis created by the GOP, it was one of the main reasons for the downgrade. If you care to read the actual S&P downgrade report you will see that it actually mentions the Republicans by name. It does not mention the Democrats.

          Take a look. From the report:

          http://nationaljournal.com/economy/text-s-p-press-release-announcing-downgrade-20110806?page=1

          “We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues…”

          and

          “The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed,”

          and

          “The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy. Despite this year’s wide-ranging debate, in our view, the differences between political parties have proven to be extraordinarily difficult to bridge, and, as we see it, the resulting agreement fell well short of the comprehensive fiscal consolidation program that some proponents had envisaged until quite recently.”

          It’s hard to read the S&P analysis as anything other than a blast at Republicans. In denouncing the threat of default as a “bargaining chip,” the agency was saying that the GOP strategy had shaken its confidence. Though S&P didn’t mention it, the agency must have been unnerved by the number of Republicans who insisted that it would be fine to blow through the debt ceiling and provoke a default.

        • larocquj

          +1. Nicely done.

    • animal

      Are you kidding us? What world do you live in?

    • jamesj

      Hilarious.

  • balconesfault

    From the McClatchy story on Boehner’s “willingness to raise revenues”.

    (Boehner) would not detail exactly what revenue-raising he was talking about, but he and other GOP leaders have been adamant that taxes should not go up. Some Republicans regard ending certain subsidies, or anticipating more economic growth, as ways to help boost revenue.

    Seriously? Let’s see a real revenue-raising proposal from the GOP that doesn’t rely on fairy dust, and we can talk.

    • medinnus

      Oh, and they offered to change the way interest is calculated on interest for a false savings of 33 billion or so – you know what they demanded in exchange?

      Yep, you guessed it – indefinite extension of the tax cuts for the upper 2%.

    • jamesj

      This would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. I’m amazed at how easy it is to get a certain segment of voters to back the current common right wing position. You just state your extreme position as if it were reasonable. It no longer matters if your proposal sits in contrast to the accepted wisdom of all the rest of Western Civilization, mainstream economics, the stated desires of the majority of Americans, empirical evidence, the best interest of the majority of Americans, or even your own political party’s positions from only 10 years ago. Voters who are loyal to you based on emotion and anger will follow you anywhere because they are not thinking and they are not evaluating. They are acting out emotional impulses, like animals.

      And when the rest of Western Civilization, the majority of economists, the American people, and even old-school Republicans protest that your ideas are extreme by any reasonable standard and likely to do great harm to the American people, just insist that you are in fact the reasonable one and you have yet to hear any comprises that come anywhere near your unreasonable position. Brilliant. And it turns out it works like a charm.

      I see this behavior throughout human history, but I’ve never felt I was living through it in my own society… until now.

      This whole episode has really shaken the political beliefs I held for a few decades. My party loyalty is obviously shifting big time as a result since I just can’t vote for people this irresponsible. But on a deeper level, this really puts a spotlight on deep rooted problems in the human psyche that must be reckoned with lest they periodically engulf humanity in a blanket of self-inflicted suffering.

      • Traveler

        Jamesj,

        Your posts are among the many reasons why I spend so much time lurking on this site. I see us entering some very dark ages, and the commenters here are among the most sensible out there (Ft and TE included, -present poster excepted). These are truly interesting times, in the troubling sense of the word. I remain hopeful that the electorate is finally waking up from the koolaid, but it will be a long struggle to get to a point when we can even begin to work together, let alone come to an effective way forward to a sustainable future.

  • Bobby McGee

    So redefining inflation to alter long run predictions of revenue growth is the same as increasing revenue now?

    At least pick a plausible lie

  • Ogemaniac

    From what I have heard, the proposed revenue increases are tiny, regressive, and….oh….include a permanent extention of the Bush cuts. So it’s not a few hundred billion of revenue increases, but rather nearly four trillion in tax cuts.

    To REPUBLICANS:

    Put your sacred cows on the table. Whip out the knives. Shed some blood. No deal gets done unless your cows bleed, too. Got it?

    Any conservative around here got guts enough to tell me how they are going to bleed their cows? I doubt it.

    • Bingham

      Its time to pull the US military out of Europe.

      • Ogemaniac

        How much military spending are you willing to cut? What is your plan for dealing with the consequences of not having a forward base in Europe? Let’s be serious.

        I’ll put a huge amount of cuts on the table, in the form of copying Japan’s medical system exactly. It costs half what ours does, and gets better results by almost any measure you can come up with. Oh, and it somehow manages to insure everyone from cradle to grave as an added bonus. As an important point, Japan’s system is somewhat like ours in that they essentially have “private” employee-based insurance, a Medicaid equivalent, and a Medicare equivalent. The difference being that everyone is always covered by one of these three systems (their “Medicaid” covers everyone who isn’t in the other two categories). This is important, at least semantically, as it results in a lot of Japan’s medical spending to be “private”.

        So, how much of the military are you going to whack? How about half? That’s would show you are serious.

        • armstp

          Oge,

          Maybe with no forward base in Europe we will think twice about getting into stupid wars.

          Cut the military budget in half over time.

      • ram6968

        if you think closing bases in this country causes local economic hardship, wait til you see what happens if we pull out all troops in europe

  • armstp

    “great line in the sand”

    more like the STUPID line in the sand.

    The fact that there is even a line in the sand is a disgrace and a joke.

    Let me spell this out in very simple terms. AMERICA HAS A TAX REVENUE PROBLEM.

    Any deal should be at least 2/3 cuts and 1/3 tax increases.

    Only the moranic Republican Party would take the fiscal and policy lever of taxes off the table when tax collection is 14.8% of GDP or at the lowest level since 1950. Through-out the entire history of the U.S. taxes have been increased and decreased as the fiscal situation required. Every single other government on the planet (including many conservative governments) are currently raising taxes to meet their fiscal obligations.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with Schumer turing up the heat on the GOP. If they want to draw a completely stupid line in the sand then the country should know about it. If the GOP wants to take the economy down, as they did with the debt ceiling vote, then voters should know about it. It is time to stop playing games with the moranic GOP and their Tea Baggers.

  • zaybu

    “Schumer was wrong that Republicans didn’t offer tax increases.”

    And what prevents the GOP to go public on the details of this offer?

  • Oldskool

    At 8% approval, Republicans have Congress right where they want it. By default, the party who keeps telling us government is horrible hopes to be the beneficiary. At least that’s the plan so we shouldn’t expect anything less than another debt ceiling style hostage taking.

    • jamesj

      There is certainly a perverse incentive at work here. I used to vote for Republicans because I wanted a strong country. I respect self criticism, but have zero patience for defeatism. There’s a fine but important line between the two. And when we engage in fierce self-criticism (which we should do) we must always be mindful of our public image in the world of foreign policy. That is just the ugly truth of how the game plays and I always felt the Republican party represented my views in the past.

      These days I’m faced with a Republican party that is doing obvious harm to the majority of Americans and seemingly deliberately eroding our national unity and strength at the federal level. I watch with my mouth agape as round after round of dogmatic ideology trumps obvious and reasonable economic and policy options. Spending cuts from the depths of a serious recession? Stupid military interventions? Irresponsible tax cuts? Irresponsible unfunded entitlement programs passed right before you start complaining about the deficit? Harming the credit and good standing of the nation as a political tool? It is very disappointing to say the least.

  • ottovbvs

    Of course it’s going to fail. Once Republicans insisted in taking revenue off the table failure became inevitable. The 11th hour offer of trivial tax loophole closing (which they floated via the ed page of the WSJ for godsake) in return for further massive tax breaks for the wealthy is PR spin. And sure Schumer was starting to get his version of the story out just as Republicans are. Hello. The issue is where does failure leave us? It actually leaves the Republicans between a rock and hard place. Firstly, none of these cuts become effective until 2013 and they fall particularly heavily on defense which is already starting to cause the militarist wing of the party to panic and start talking about passing circumventory legislation on the grounds that defense cuts cost jobs (whereas apparently education or Medicare cuts don’t). Good luck with explaining that one. Secondly we head into the election with the Republicans ever more committed to insisting on cuts in jobs and services while protecting the wealthy from any tax hikes. As poll after poll shows the public overwhelmingly believes such increases are necessary and that the Republicans put the interests of millionaires before those of the mass of the country (not to mention a widespread perception they are actually deliberately sabotaging the economy). So good luck with fighting the election on that platform. The results last night show clearly that when the public understands an issue and are energized things don’t usually turn out as the GOP would like. While Obama has the odd albatross the Republicans are heading into this election with enough birds to keep Ancient Mariners busy for years.

    • armstp

      OWS is driving many of your points home. OWS has finally gotten the media to begin to report on these inequalities, which makes it tough for the GOP to continue to support the wealthy in this economic environment.

      • ottovbvs

        I agree about OWS. It’s a confluence of circumstances. OWS…the continuing slow job market…that CBO report which received widespread media coverage…Republican antics in congress which are increasingly being perceived for what they are…the general craziness of Republican candidates whose tax and other proposals even when loopy get exposure…events in states like OH and WI…Ryan’s plan to scrap Medicare/Medicaid…ultimately these things combine to penetrate the public consciousness and shape overall perceptions of how things stand.

  • D Furlano

    The number one problem the republicans have are teabag morons like Joe Walsh.

    Walsh not only doesn’t have a clue and makes up most of the what he says but in reality teabaggers are nothing but fanatical extremists.

    I like his consistency as an ahole. Pat Toomey who is on the super committee is an upscale clone of Walsh.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ct-76UB98s

    • valkayec

      Pat Toomey is a previous head of the libertarian Club for Growth. Kinda says all you need to know about Toomey’s politics and policy preferences.

  • valkayec

    As a reply to this article, I’ll point you to Ezra Klein’s early morning blog post on this subject. I think the numbers he points out make a pretty good case why the spin on both sides of the aisle should be ignored. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/wonkbook-what-counts-as-a-tax-increase/2011/11/09/gIQAQYz24M_blog.html#excerpt

    Mayor Bloomberg this morning offered his advise. Let all of the Bush era tax cuts expire which raises about $4 trillion over 10 years and get us most of the way there on deficit reduction; and enact/approve the Simpson-Bowles recommendations, including cleaning up the tax code to eliminate many of the more than $1 trillion in annual tax expenditures and subsidies that are no longer needed and no longer serve a useful economic purpose.

    • ottovbvs

      All the Bush tax cuts ARE going to expire. It’s inevitable whether Obama wins or loses. However the 4 trillion is at the top end of estimates, it’s more likely around 2.5 trillion which doesn’t get you all the way. As to Erskine Bowles there was a lot of indeterminate stuff and magic asterisks as I recall but a lot of tax loopholes could be closed but apart from some minor tweaks I don’t see the country buying into major changes in SS or Medicare.

      • valkayec

        All the Bush tax cuts ARE going to expire.

        I’ll believe it when I see it. I’m betting that by the end of next year another deal will be made much as the last one: we’ll give you Dems something you want (i.e. unemployment extensions) for an extension of the Bush tax cuts. I may be wrong, but I don’t have any faith that the GOP won’t hold something important to Dems hostage to those tax cuts. And I don’t have any faith that the Dems will tell the GOP to take a hike.

        • ottovbvs

          Given the likely dynamics that would exist in the event of an Obama win or lose I don’t see the incentives for these deals you talk about.

        • more5600

          The Republicans are already insisting that the Bush tax cut be made permanent before they will consider “revenue increases”.

  • jamesj

    When I read posts like this I feel like I am getting a peek at an alternate universe where the laws of nature are different.

    • balconesfault

      Bingo.

      Much of the GOP’s “revenue increases” are akin to if the Democrats started projecting “entitlement reduction” based not on targeted program cuts, but on the need for entitlement spending plummeting based on a 1% unemployment rate, the job market suddenly facilitating seniors working until age 75 on average, an inexpensive cure for kidney failures that result in a need for dialysis, and charitable contributions that support public education increasing by 10x.

      Oh – and fairy dust.

      • jamesj

        It pains me to say all this, but there’s only so much a man can take. The destructive behavior has risen to dangerous levels and we’re all paying the price.

        • balconesfault

          For what it’s worth, I would love it if the GOP could be brought back to sensibility from within.

          But currently, the entire structure – from top-end funding to grass roots – seems to be based on a form of pure tribalism where the defining principle is that anyone who deviates to the left must be expunged. There is absolutely no ability for a GOP politician these days to acknowledge that a Democratic/liberal idea has merit – which stands in stark contrast to the fact that the Democrats, most notably President Obama, constantly note that conservative goals have merit and must be considered in the political process.

          Thus, while the Democratic Party today may tack left too often for your taste, it most clearly tacks right on a frequent basis. OTOH, the GOP is like a vessel whose rudder is stuck between “RIGHT” and “FURTHER RIGHT”, which may be a good way to go in circles but a lousy way to move forward.

  • Graychin

    So the Republicans are prepared to trade the middle class’ mortgage interest deduction for lower tax rates for gazillionaires?

    That doesn’t sound to me like crossing Grover’s line. Getting that gazillionaire rate down and keeping it there is the real objective. Always was.

    • dante

      Massive tax increase for the middle class, tax cuts for the rich…. sounds like business as usual for the (current) GOP.

  • willard landreth

    sounds to me like Shumer just called the thugs out and they’ve come to a reasonable conclusion, (a first is some time) that their debt/tax stance is just plain stupid. I would frame the entire thing in another way:

    Could it be that the “they’re obstructing the economy just win an election” is clearly construed to be true by the voters? Is it possible that yesterday’s election results – many of which understood beforehand by intelligent republicans made a small dent in their quest to jsut defeat Obama regardless of the harm to America?

    • Elvis Elvisberg

      • paul_gs

        Ok Mr. Bright Bulb, exactly how would sabotaging the economy increase Republicans’ chances in the 2012 election?

        • dante

          Because…. when the economy’s in the tank people usually tend to vote against the incumbent president? Are you really this dumb?

        • ottovbvs

          “Are you really this dumb?”

          Yep!

        • more5600

          Boy was that a stupid question!

        • larocquj

          Sabotaging the economy and blaming it on the man in the White House. He wouldn’t be the first president to get the blame for a bad economy.

        • MaxFischer

          “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

          – Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, October 2010

          Completely ignoring the above quote, in light of what we have seen – filibustering everything that comes to the floor, even legislation/appointees they agree with, etc – any sentient being would have a difficult time coming to any other conclusion.

        • Chris Balsz

          It’s very simple Paul. By denying the President a blank check rubber stamp, the minority party forced concessions onto the party with a majority of the House, Senate and the Presidency to the point that it was impossible for the economy to improve.

          Not that this President has failed. Not at all. He did what he had to do. He succeeded in holding the line. Some minor people on his staff, like the Chairman of his panel of economic advisors, went rogue and published projections that said that we’d have unemployment under 6% by now. And these rogue elements have been liquidated. Because those unauthorized projections failed to take into account the extreme global disruption and the Republican obstruction. Actually we’re doing as well as can be expected.

          And that’s how they are sabotaging the economy, by keeping Obama to his successful stimulus plan, without allowing for real recovery.

          So to sum up, if you think the glass is half-full, reward our competent president with four more years. If you think the glass is half-empty, you need to punish those Republicans for their sabotage. Or rather, attempted sabotage of the ongoing recovery.

  • dante

    Lol, Republicans talk tax increases? Let’s take a closer look at those, shall we?

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-08/debt-supercommittee-said-to-weigh-republican-plan-on-limiting-tax-breaks.html

    Republicans, who until now opposed new tax revenue in any deficit plan, suggested reducing individual tax deductions, exclusions and other breaks and changing the way income tax brackets are indexed to inflation, a Democratic aide said. In exchange, Republicans called for chopping the top marginal tax rate to as low as 28 percent, the aide said. Those changes would net $300 billion in higher revenue, the aide said.

    So… MASSIVE tax increase on the middle class, tax cuts for the rich, and the end result is $300b more in tax revenue. *This* is what the GOP is pushing for right now?

    It… never… ends…

    • willard landreth

      The party of ideas has for about a century now proclaiming the same idea – that the wealhty create jobs and piss on the rest of us their excrement. Hoover, reagan, Bush 2. The results have been the same yet their story never changes. It sure as hell isn’t going to end here. Remember this is the “party of ideas”

  • LFC

    This is either a display of a complete and total lack of knowledge on the current situation or it’s pure partisan hackery (a.k.a. a bucket of lies). Let’s just hit the two biggest gaffes.

    First, the Dems have offered up Medicare cuts. From an article in The Nation back on October 26:

    The $400 billion in Medicare cuts would be split evenly between beneficiaries and providers.

    Second, as noted above and elsewhere, Republicans are willing to close tax loopholes and tax expenditures but only if we offset them with something else AND extend the already debt mounting Bush tax cuts. This is not crossing a line. They have been saying for well over a year that they would tinker with the tax code as long as anything that could potentially cause and increase was offset by yet another cut. This has even been Norquist’s line.

    So the author didn’t read about the former and doesn’t remotely grasp the latter. Either that or he’s knowingly writing lies. Either way that makes him a hack. Where the heck does Frum find these people? Can’t he find real conservatives like Bruce Bartlett to write about these topics? There simply has to be a few left somewhere.

  • bdtex

    As others have pointed out,you left out some very significant facts about the deal GOPs offered. This is getting to be a pattern with you.

  • more5600

    Wow, this article might be better suited for Big Government or Hot Air. Completely and utterly disingenuous… maybe even World Net Daily but not here.

  • Shotgun314159

    The true joy of this site is reading the posts.
    I love seeing who can shred “wingnut” articles in the fewest words.