Nov 25, 2012

It's All Very Easy In The Abstract

     Brian Beutler writing at TPM raises an excellent point:
Republicans are coming to terms with the fact that they will have to cede real, higher tax revenues to President Obama if they want to avoid the full expiration of the Bush tax cuts.
But while Democrats have been explicit about what they want from the GOP — a higher top income tax rate on high earners — Republicans have been vague about what they want in return.
When asked, Republicans insist that Democrats will have to accept “structural reforms” to support programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security if Republicans are to relent on taxes. But neither Democratic nor Republican aides can publicly say what would pass the GOP’s “structural reform” test.
“What do you think they mean by structural changes?” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi asked rhetorically at a Capitol press conference last week. ...
Privately, some Republicans hope to return to the kinds of proposals Obama and Boehner nearly settled upon last summer during their failed debt ceiling negotiations — including a higher Medicare eligibility age, and a less generous formula for calculating Social Security cost of living adjustments....
[W]hichever pound of flesh Republicans hope to extract will be politically vital — and it’s why they’re dancing around the issue, and pressing Obama to speak up first.
     Let's say that there is an agreement between the President and Republican Congressional leaders and that agreement includes changing to the chained CPI method of computing the Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). "Chained CPI" sounds abstruse but it can be easily and accurately boiled down to "cutting Social Security" for the purposes of a campaign ad. There's no reason for rank and file Democrats in the House of Representatives to vote for this. Republicans who vote for this are sure to face campaign ads attacking them for cutting Social Security. Why would they vote for it? Republican voters get excited about budget deficits and cutting "entitlements" in the abstract but most of them don't like cuts to Social Security any more than Democratic voters do. This could be a tough vote for Republicans in the House of Representatives. No wonder they want Obama to speak up first. 
     I have my doubts that Republicans can muster the votes to pass chained CPI or any other cut in Social Security. I'll be surprised if it happens.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They would vote for it because something has to be done to reduce entitlements and it's easier to restrict their growth by implementing a methodology that reduces increases, rather than reduce what folks already have. Americans are sophisticated enough to know things like this have to be done. Elections will turn on whether the collective changes are perceived as reasonable and fair - and whether or not Congress does or does not act.