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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

 
Looks like we've got ourselves a new "center" (It looks a lot like the old right)

by digby

In this post by Greg Sargent we see the folly of asking for a "balanced approach" when you are negotiating with partisan thugs:

Whereas the previous Simpson Bowles plan contained a roughly even split of revenues and cuts, the new one reduces the revenue “ask” dramatically, with the result that the overall plan is lopsidedly tilted towards cuts. The reason for this pinpointed by Klein is particularly striking:

This isn’t meant to be an update to Simpson-Bowles 1.0. Rather, it’s meant to be an outline for a new grand bargain. To that end, Simpson and Bowles began with Obama and Boehner’s final offers from the fiscal cliff deal. That helps explain why their tax ask has fallen so far: Obama’s final tax ask was far lower than what was in the original Simpson-Bowles plan, while Boehner’s tilt towards spending cuts was far greater than what was in the original Simpson-Bowles.

In other words, the plan roughly represents the ideological midpoint between the Obama and Boehner fiscal cliff blueprints — which is why the plan is so heavily tilted towards cuts. As Kevin Drum notes, this is particularly odd, given that spending cuts have already been “75 percent of the deficit reduction we’ve done so far.”

Greg further points out how this so-called "center point" actually represents a major move to the right:

[T]he Boehner fiscal cliff plan raised taxes only on income over $1 million; the Obama offer raised taxes only on income over $400,000. Both of these are to the right of the balance Obama just won an election on: The expiration of the Bush tax cuts for income over $250,000. Yet these were designated the two ideological outer poles for the purposes of defining the debate.

Funny how that happens. And the Lords of the Deficit have now blessed it as the new center. All over TV this morning, their new plan has been heralded as a perfect compromise of only the warring parties will stop acting like children and accept it.

My favorite part of the latest BS austerity plan has to be this, from Tim Noah:

Lowering income-tax rates while eliminating tax breaks would, Simpson and Bowles say, achieve some unspecified quantity of deficit savings. But if your aim is to reduce the deficit, why not get rid of as many tax expenditures as you can while leaving tax rates constant—or, better yet, raising them a bit? Simpson and Bowles would likely say they’re just being realistic about politics. Republicans won’t eliminate loopholes unless they can lower rates, too.

But as long as we’re being realistic, why not be realistic about the likelihood that a lower-rates-for-fewer-loopholes swap will reduce the deficit? Which is about zero. Simpson and Bowles’s insistence on clinging to the tax-reform fantasy demonstrates that their agenda is not limited to deficit reduction. They also want to lower tax rates. Why? They just want to, is all.

That tax reform zombie is the undead step-child of supply-side economics, that last magical thinking economic plan that promised to raise revenues by lowering them. It won't work any better this time, but damned if they aren't going to keep trying. They just love the idea of paying nothing for something.


I won't rag on the president again for this misguided willingness to take the middle position and allow the Republicans to move ever rightward. After all, he wouldn't be the first Democrat to value his own image as a Very Serious Person over the political requirements of particular legislation. And it's possible that he agrees that "balanced" translates to 75% cuts to revenue.

But let's not forget that this is just wrong. I think Sargent will likely be the only to mention this, so I'm going to highlight it:

Of course, there is actually a liberal position in this debate, and it isn’t the one held by Obama. As you may recall, House progressives recently released their own blueprint for Round 3 of deficit reduction; it proposed some $948 billion in new revenues, derived entirely from closing loopholes and deductions enjoyed by the rich. The result of this plan, if enacted, would be that overall, our short term fiscal problems would have been resolved through roughly equivalent spending cuts and tax hikes — which is to say, through roughly equivalent concessions by both sides.

So, the truth is that it's the progressives who are offering the only "balanced approach." And such a balanced approach is considered a radical position so outside the mainstream that it isn't even discussed.

Yes, our politics are absurd.

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