Evidently, Speaker of the House Boehner and President Obama are secretly negotiating an end to the impasse over raising the debt ceiling and reducing the federal budget deficit. It is clearly in the interest of both to come to an equitable and far-reaching — rather than stop-gap — agreement. A successful accord would be a large part of the legacies of both men.
The short-term political effect, however, could be politically disastrous for both of them, as they will undoubtedly infuriate their respective bases. Yesterday’s Pew poll reports that 60% of the public doesn’t want any benefit cuts. The most important issue by far is joblessness. Despite this and other polls showing that Americans care much more about retaining their benefits from Social Security and Medicare than they do about reducing the deficit or raising the debt ceiling, Obama has defied the Democratic leadership by putting those two programs on the table. Boehner has indicated he’s willing to concede on some tax reforms/increases.They are completely disregarding the decisive statements of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office that drastic short-term spending cuts will not only impede the shaky recovery of the economy, but imperil the advances already achieved. This is not the time to worry about the deficit. It is a long-term problem. When people get back to work and pay taxes, the deficit will come sharply down because revenue will increase and government support payments to the unemployed will decrease. The government needs to spend to create jobs so that working people can spend money and so boost the economy.In that hopefully not-to-distant future we can cut wasteful spending.
What’s not on the table is tax hikes for the wealthiest one percent of the country, the people who take home almost 24 percent of the earnings of all Americans. Instead, Obama and Boehner are looking for ways they can cut benefits to seniors, the poor and the disabled.
We’ve heard this song before — most recently last December, when Obama agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts against overwhelming opposition from his own party. Negotiating is one thing. Caving is another.