Political Animal


December 09, 2012 10:08 AM The Fiscal, Uh, Thing: Soliciting Suggestions

By Adele Stan

So, as I mentioned in my opening post, everybody here in the Village, as digby likes to call it, is all abuzz about what kind of deal the president and House Speaker John Boehner might arrive at in order to avert the pile of automatic spending cuts that will go into effect on January 1 if no deficit-cutting agreement is reached.

Among the Very Serious People who sometimes admit me to their enclaves, strictly with a non-voting observer status, the talk has now turned to, well, if raising the Medicare eligibility age is off the table, then what should Obama offer Boehner in exchanges for raising the tax rates on the wealthy? After all, you gotta give the guy some cover, the reasoning goes.

So I turn to you, dear Animals, to offer your suggestions in the comments section below. For a point of reference, I’m including this delicious bit from last night’s Saturday Night Live, which was actually pretty funny. (Jay Pharoah’s Obama is dead on.)


  • Chopin on December 09, 2012 10:41 AM:

    A pallet of Agent Orange

  • RepubAnon on December 09, 2012 10:45 AM:

    How about modified means-testing of Medicare eligibility? Lower the earliest qualification age to 59, crank up the premiums during the period from 59 - 65 for anyone making over $250,000/year to cost plus 5%, $500K to cost plus 10%.

    It allows the camel's nose of means-testing into the entitlement tent, protects folks who worked lower income / physically demanding jobs, and looks like "reform."

  • c u n d gulag on December 09, 2012 10:49 AM:


    After the results of the last election, Obama conceding on Medicare or SS, would be like Abraham Lincoln telling Grant, "Look, we clearly won, but let's not rub the South's nose in it.
    We have to save their dignity, and give them some cover.
    Let General Lee keep his sword and his horse so that he can ride back to Richmond and let Ol' Jeff Davis know that all's forgiven, and that they can keep all their current Negro slaves in the Confederate and Border States, but not in any new ones.
    I'm sure the people in the North don't want the South humiliated or punished. They'll love me and you for doing this."

    At which point, Grant would have been held blameless if he doused Lincoln with cheap whiskey, put his lit cigar in his eye, and set Lincoln off like a roman feckin' candle.

  • Julie on December 09, 2012 10:52 AM:

    I agree with c u n d gulag - why anything? Or to rephrase it, they already got their dessert last year; time to eat your spinach, boys.

  • Travis on December 09, 2012 10:54 AM:

    I suggest eliminating the "step-up basis" for unrealized capital gains.

  • Leopold von Ranke on December 09, 2012 10:59 AM:

    Re: Boehner

    Screw 'im.

    Have you noticed that "Captcha" has gotten more difficult to figure out lately? Jeez. I got "Commonwealth" and something I really can't make out. Think it might be "tf Az [capitilize the "Z" or not?]om. Good Christ.

  • Leopold von Ranke on December 09, 2012 11:01 AM:

    Happy day! Guessed right. The "Z" was capitalized!

  • Adele Stan on December 09, 2012 11:01 AM:

    C'mon folks, I know you can be more creative than this. Think snark. For instance, perhaps Obama can offer, on the entitlements front, to cut all Congressional entitlements: the special health-care plan, the pension plan, the barber shop, the Yankee Bean soup in the Senate dining room. (Okay, I think they have to pay for the Yankee Bean soup, but maybe they should pay more.)

  • Rich Beckman on December 09, 2012 11:26 AM:

    He should order the Coast Guard to no longer attend to private yachts in distress. Savings would be minimal, but those folks don't want the government in their lives anyway, so it would increase their freedom.

    Win. Win.

  • Nick on December 09, 2012 11:32 AM:

    As Michael Corleone said, "My offer is 'nothing.'"

  • Jim Keating on December 09, 2012 11:35 AM:

    Obama could offer them the ability to increase the entrance age to 67 with th caveat that those two
    years would be covered under the Afordable Care act
    as 100 % federal subsidised coverage.I think the president could do that unilaterally. I think that there
    are many creative things the president can do using
    Obama care.

  • Dwight Meredith on December 09, 2012 11:40 AM:

    c u n d gulag: I think you need a different analogy. Lincoln did, in fact, allow Rebel officers to keep their horses and sidearms.

    In victory Lincoln urged "malice towards none, with charity for all."

  • biggerbox on December 09, 2012 11:51 AM:

    The sad part about that SNL skit is that is captures both the school-boy nature of the House GOP, and the willingness of Obama to be nice and make deals. :-(

    I've said before, here is what Boehner gets if he agrees to a middle-class tax rate extension - the GOP isn't blamed for raising everyone's taxes, and they get to spend the next decade pointing to this agreement as proof that they aren't just the party for rich folk, because look! they let taxes on the rich go up. (To levels that had existed before GWB, but never mind.)

    That should be plenty. At the Tea Partiers said, "keep your damn government hands off my Medicare!"

  • Joe Friday on December 09, 2012 11:53 AM:

    Why the hell does Obama have to offer Speaker Blubber ANYTHING ? The tax rates go up automatically according to the prior DEAL that he and his fellow Republicans forced.

    We just did a trillion and a half in SPENDING CUTS which is austerity dragging on the national economy.

    Time for the Republicans to bend over and take it.

  • Taylor on December 09, 2012 11:58 AM:

    What Nick said.

    And delivered by Michael Corleone.

  • bleh on December 09, 2012 12:00 PM:

    nick beat me to it.

    Damn right, "nothing." Obama's reply should be, Democrats are demonized as the party that raises taxes. Fine, we've taken our hit. Now it's your turn. Make your suggesion, we will oppose it hugely -- as you did with tax increases -- and THEN there will be a compromise.

    Honestly, why everyone expects Democrats to do ALL the heavy lifting, and allows Republicans just to crash the car and then complain about waiting for a ride, is quite beyond me.

  • c u n d gulag on December 09, 2012 12:06 PM:

    Yeah, I know about the horses, guns, and swords. I was trying to make the point about letting them keep the blacks enslaved.

    And that we're still paying for his "charity."

  • Gary A on December 09, 2012 12:08 PM:

    Obama does not need to offer anything to offset higher tax rates for the top 2%. Those are current law and will happen without any Republican agreement. Nor, I believe, does anything need to be offered in exchange for extending lower middle class rates permanently. If R's want to block that Dls will be happy to run as the party of lower taxes in 14. What DO 'D's need to bargain for? Extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits. What do they have to offer in return? Temporarily lowering tax rates on the wealthy for an equivalent period of time, one those rates have been decoupled from the middle class rates which must be made permanent as part of the deal.

    Play chicken with the sequester. The best deal to be had would be to match each dollar restored to defense with a dollar restored to non-defense spending and offset both dollars by reducing tax expenditures. But be ready to let the sequester happen if no deal can be struck.

    Also play chicken with the debt ceiling where Obama has much more leverage than he was willing to use last time.

    Boehner's cover is that he was dealt a weak hand and played it as best he or anyone else could.

  • c u n d gulag on December 09, 2012 12:19 PM:

    Ok, Ms. Stan, you want more stuff?

    How about this - no pensions for members of Congress, since they consider them as lavish entitelments. Either that, or have President Obama take that fund's savings, and throw it into the General Fund to be applied towards the deficit. Companies do that all of the time to their workers and retirees.

    And members of Congress have to have the same health care plan as the rest of us. And, as long as one regular person has to pay for theirs, they have to pay the worst rate that's out there.

    Also, for every 1/10th of a percentage point of ALL people unemployed over 5.1%, members of Congress and their staff's have to lose 2% of their salaries. Right now, they'd be making a little under half the stated salary.

    This will go a long way to getting our out-of-touch Congressmoochers to understand how regular people live:
    No pensions to fall back on, unless they change the rules to encourage companies to reform pension plans, and then we can give them their pensions back;
    They'll have the same crappy and expensive health care as the rest of us;
    And, they'll be very motivated to create Stimulus Packages to lower the unemployment rate below 5.1%, at which point they can again give themselves a raise - of 1% for every 1/2 a percentage point below 5.1%

  • RepubAnon on December 09, 2012 1:31 PM:

    I'm all in favor of making Congresscritters health care, pension, and benefits the same as all other Federal employees. However, we really need to offer the Republicans something, or they won't make a deal.

    It's the old "Democrats think government can solve problems, Republicans claim government is the problem" dilemma: When Republicans act to prevent government from working, they view it as proving their point. Thus, bargaining with Republicans isn't a two-way street. So long as they either have the House, or can filibuster in the Senate, they can block government action. Even in a Gingrich-style government shutdown, they feel that voters remember the government's failure to provide services more than they remember Republican sabotage.

    Worse, Republicans suffer from "folie plusieurs" (a shared delusion) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folie_%C3%A0_deux. They really believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that increased government spending causes job losses (and that cutting defense spending also results in job losses). They also believe that if they hold to these beliefs, the American people will start thinking that the Republicans are right.

    There is significant danger that the Republicans are correct in this belief. When times are tough, humans tend to look for scapegoats. We don't blame heretics for the Black Death these days, but when the economy is bad enough for long enough, the ultra-nationalists and fascists get more popular. (Check out Greece's Golden Dawn party, or the rise of the ultra-right in Japan.) It can happen here, and I wouldn't put it past the Koch brothers and others of their ilk to push for that eventuality.

    So: what minimal fig leaf can we offer Republicans so that enough of them let a deal go through? Because without a deal, the Republicans will crash the economy. At that point, the Tea Party will jump in and blame the Democrats and RINOs for the 2014 election cycle - and stand a good chance of winning. Then, we're talking DeMint as President in 2016

  • Jeff on December 09, 2012 1:38 PM:

    Ditto Taylor, Nick, Joe, et al.
    "My offer is this: Nothing. Not even the fee for the gaming license which I'd appreciate you put up personally."

    Come 2013, Obama's got the tax hikes, $500 billion off defense, and the public at his back. Pound sand, Boehner. You know that offer in 2012? It's gone.

    We want more stimulus and we'll take it from the DoD. If you believe in Military Keynesianism, you shouldn't have any problem with regular old Keynesianism.

    And forget about the Debt Ceiling. The American public is on to you. Again, my offer is "nothing." The only thing you'll get is the privilege of voting for middle-class tax cuts. Otherwise this country is going to see you as the hostage-taking whores to the rich that you are. Take my offer. It's better than you deserve.

  • somethingblue on December 09, 2012 3:16 PM:

    "So: what minimal fig leaf can we offer Republicans so that enough of them let a deal go through?"

    An excellent question. We can start discussing it on January 2nd. If Boehner wants a deal before then, what is HE going to offer?

  • exlibra on December 09, 2012 4:14 PM:

    [...] what should Obama offer Boehner in exchanges for raising the tax rates on the wealthy? -- Adele Stan

    Elegantly extended middle finger? Obama has offered Boehner scads of cuts the last time around -- an offer which Boehner and his cohorts turned down, as not being enough. It'll be more than Boner deserves if Obama doesn't withdraw that previous offer, rather than have Obama add on to them.

    On second thoughts and in the charitable Christmas spirit... Obama could also offer Boehner a nice edition of Pushkin's fairy tale of the fisherman and gold fish, so that the orange man (mandarin? cutie?) could learn to appreciate what the excessive greed leads to, and just how big Obama's magnanimity is in *not* withdrawing his previous offer of the cuts.

  • earthworx on December 09, 2012 6:46 PM:

    Nick beat me to it also. As soon as I read the post, the Michael Corleone line came immediately to mind, "Senator, my offer is this, nothing".

  • earthworx on December 09, 2012 6:53 PM:

    Obama also needs to get out of the habit of giving the republicans bad policy in order to get good policy passed, especially as in this case, it's not necessary.

  • martin on December 09, 2012 6:59 PM:

    Simple, everyone who voted for the republicans gets their taxes raised, their Medicare privatized, their retirement age raised and social security means tested. Everyone who voted for the Democrats gets the Obama plan. Fair is fair.

  • Doug on December 09, 2012 7:48 PM:

    I keep hearing about giving someone a metaphorical "fig leaf", why not a real one?

  • mad_nVT on December 09, 2012 8:05 PM:

    How about Obama offers all the Republican legislators some ocean front property (with no flood insurance) so they can learn about global warming.

    How about all Republican legislators get science books, so that they can learn how old the earth is.

    How about all R legislators are given a free ride to the ghettos and dropped off there, so that they can learn what real life is like. They can hitchhike home.

    How about all R legislators are given a free ride to Eastern Afghanistan and dropped off there, so that they can learn what war is like. (War is hell.)

  • Anonymous on December 09, 2012 9:04 PM:

    Boehner's district is right next to Wright Patterson AIr Force Base. Ohio's single largest employer. He and several of his caucus are in the same boat. They will feel the drop off the cliff immediately. They'd be idiots to take the fall.

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