On the eve of a second round of high-level bipartisan talks set for Sunday, Mr. Boehner issued a statement saying he would now urge negotiators to instead focus on crafting a smaller package more in line with the $2 trillion to $3 trillion in spending cuts and revenue increases negotiated earlier by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
“Despite good-faith efforts to find common ground, the White House will not pursue a bigger debt reduction agreement without tax hikes,” Mr. Boehner said. “I believe the best approach may be to focus on producing a smaller measure, based on the cuts identified in the Biden-led negotiations, that still meets our call for spending reforms and cuts greater than the amount of any debt limit increase.”
The decision was a major reversal for Mr. Boehner, a veteran Congressional deal-maker who along with Mr. Obama had been the major advocate for seeking a far-reaching deal that would have combined a debt limit increase with substantial spending cuts, significant changes in social programs like Medicare, Medicaid and perhaps Social Security, and as much as $1 trillion in new revenues. Following a secret meeting between the two last weekend, Mr. Obama went public with his own call for a broad package.
This should be proof positive (as if anyone believed them in the first place) that Republicans are not serious about deficit reduction. They want cuts only, they want cuts that will adversely affect the lives of a majority of poor and middle-class Americans, they wants cuts they can use as a political weapon in the next election. If the Democrats believe in protecting the people of this country, there is no better time to take a stand. Americans are overwhelmingly against cuts to "the big three" - and that includes independents and a split GOP.
According to the Pew poll, Americans strongly back the major entitlement programs. In addition to backing the programs over cutting budget deficits, most Americans also oppose making Medicare recipients more responsible for their healthcare costs and allowing states to limit Medicaid eligibility. About 61% said people on Medicare already pay enough of their own healthcare costs; 31% said they think recipients need to pay more healthcare costs to make the system financially secure.
On Medicaid, just 37% want to allow states to cut back on eligibility rules while a majority, 58%, said low-income people should continue to get Medicaid benefits.
The political distinctions were intriguing as the nation moves along in the 2012 presidential cycle in which the economy and budget-related issues are considered to be the top draw for voters. Fifty percent of Republicans said that maintaining benefits is more important than deficit reduction, while Democrats, by 72% to 21%, overwhelmingly said preserving benefits was more important than reducing the deficit. Independents split in favor of benefits by 53% to 38%.
The one group that favors benefit cuts? Wealthy Republicans.
WH communications director Dan Pfeiffer talks of the "cynicism people have about politics", and frames it in terms of frustration with the process. If they think that's all this is about, they really are missing the point. Maybe it would be better if the White House and Democrats stop and consider that perhaps the reason people are cynical is because they are sick and tired of government that always seeks to please the 30% or so trickle-down dead-enders who are leading this country in the wrong direction.
Enough is enough. President Obama is fond of telling us that someone has to be the "adult" here. Sometimes being the adult means that you have to put your foot down when the children are making unreasonable demands. Keep refusing to do that, and watch the disgust continue to grow. Is the White House oblivious to what is happening out here in the states? Everyday Americans are already paying the price across the country with massive cuts to schools and local services. The feds will appear to be piling on at this point.
Any deal that even remotely appears to favor the Republicans and the wealthy will confirm that Americans are right to be cynical - and it will have nothing to do with the process. The Democrats need to walk away from this with a tangible victory, or the goal of winning in 2012 is going to become ever so much harder to achieve.
Update: Hammer. Nail. Head.
The only crisis we're facing is that one of our nation's political parties has decided to hold its breath until the nation turns red. And the media, the public, and the opposing party are treating this massive tantrum with far more respect than it deserves.