The way we the peasants get governed: Is it possible that a budget deal is nearing completion?
Needless to say, no one knows. But Jonathan Weisman presented this outline in today’s New York Times:
WEISMAN (12/18/12): The two sides are now dickering over price, not philosophical differences, and the numbers are very close.If this is accurate, future Social Security benefits would get reduced due to the new measure of inflation.
Mr. Boehner had offered the president a deficit framework that would raise $1 trillion over 10 years, with the details to be settled next year by Congress’s tax-writing committees and the Obama administration. In response, Mr. Obama reduced his proposal to $1.2 trillion from $1.4 trillion on Monday at a 45-minute meeting with the speaker at the White House. That was down from $1.6 trillion initially.The White House plan would permanently extend Bush-era tax cuts on household incomes below $400,000, meaning that only the top tax bracket, 35 percent, would increase to 39.6 percent. The current cutoff between the top rate and the next highest rate, 33 percent, is $388,350.
On spending, the two sides are also converging.
The White House says the president’s plan would cut spending by $1.22 trillion over 10 years, compared with $1.2 trillion in cuts from the Republicans’ initial offer. Of that, $800 billion is cuts to programs, and $122 billion comes from adopting a new measure of inflation that slows the growth of government benefits, especially Social Security. The White House is also counting on $290 billion in savings from lower interest costs on a reduced national debt.
Of the $800 billion in straight cuts, the president said half would come from federal health care programs; $200 billion from other so-called mandatory programs, like farm price supports, not subject to Congress’s annual spending bills; $100 billion from military spending; and $100 billion from domestic programs under Congress’s annual discretion.
To make all this happen, Mr. Obama proposed fast-track procedures to help Congressional tax writers overhaul the individual and corporate tax code and make changes to other programs.
Around the web, various people are forming their view of this general outline; for Paul Krugman’s take, just click here. We will simply offer a few thoughts about the way this possible deal has possibly been reached:
Whatever one may think of this possible deal, this is feudal governance. There aren’t three regular people in the country who have given a second’s thought to the idea of “switching from the regular CPI to the chained CPI.” Very few people have ever heard of the chained CPI.
An election season just came and went with no one ever asking Obama what he would accept, or refuse to accept, in a budget deal. The fiscal cliff was never mentioned in any presidential debate. In particular, Obama was never asked about the possibility of lowering future Social Security benefits through a switch to the chained CPI.
No one would have understood the question if it had been asked. Almost surely, that would include the "journalist" who asked it.
Within our major newspapers, there has been nothing resembling a real discussion of this admittedly complex possible deal. Our society doesn’t work like that. It would be astonishing to imagine the Washington Post or the New York Times conducting a real discussion of, let us say, the chained CPI and its effect on future Social Security benefits.
Our political culture is more feudal than that. At junctures like this, our leaders meet in “quiet rooms,” usually at 3 in the morning as some deadline looms. They spring their deal when the world is asleep.
Then they rush to vote.
As this happens, no one has the slightest idea what the new policies mean. Nor has any major news org made any real attempt to examine such topics.
Make no mistake—this is in part the doing of the liberal world. We liberals are now told that we have a liberal news channel. But there has been no real attempt on that One True Channel to thrash out these topics. Instead, we get handed various furies about cultural issues. Did you see Lawrence play all those (pathetic sad) race cards last week?
Yes, he actually said this:
O’DONNELL (12/13/12): Grover [Norquist] has controlled the Republicans in the House and Senate so long that he now thinks he is actually one of them. That is one desperate and delusional, highly delusional anti-tax fanatic.Lawrence didn’t want to think that Grover was using that phrase to picture Obama as a slave! But he just couldn't help himself.
NORQUIST (videotape): We, the Republicans in the House and Senate, will make him actually make those spending restraints in order to get the continuing the resolution out, a week, two weeks, a month. Obama will be on a very short leash, fiscally speaking, over the next four years.
O’DONNELL: Now, "very short leash" is a common phrase in this kind of situation. So I don’t want to think that Grover deliberately used that phrase to create the imagery of Barack Obama as a dog or a slave. But Grover actually specializes in deliberately vicious hate speech—hate speech against anyone who takes a responsible approach to financing the federal government.
And so I’m sorry to say that Grover is not above suspicious on that phrase about the short leash.
(There was much more that night before Lawrence was done. In our view, O’Donnell comes close to being a very bad man.)
So it goes on The One True Channel as we liberals get thrilled and distracted. These thrills give us the false idea that a group of fiery liberals are looking out for our interests. On the larger stage, the shootings in Newtown only provide added cover for the negotiators as they move toward the possibility of reducing Social Security benefits. Whatever one thinks of the discussions which have emerged from the Newtown killings, they provide one more way to avoid discussing the future adjustments which may or may not emerge in a last-minute, hurried, un-discussed budget deal.
Everything is done this way within our political culture. We live in a very unintelligent political culture. But as long as we liberals keep getting our tribal gruel, we liberals don’t seem to notice.
Santa, how does the chained CPI really work? Children may find it in their stockings this year without anyone having asked!
One final point about the all-encompassing silence: We have been told, again and again, that everyone has to feel some pain as part of a budget settlement. Within your largest news orgs, have you seen anyone attempt to report the way the gains of the past twenty years have all gone to those at the top?
Have you seen any news divisions report the way tax burdens have shifted downward on the highest earners? No, you haven’t seen your big news orgs do that—and you never will.
By the way, did you ever see that type of reporting on The One True Channel? Not really! Instead, you were handed a very bad, very rich man talking about racist Grover.
This is the con game in which we all live. Question: Do the transient thrills about “short leashes” make up for the defeats?