Giving Away The Argument

The latest pas de deux:

Obama administration officials are offering to cut tens of billions of dollars from Medicare and Medicaid in negotiations to reduce the federal budget deficit, but the depth of the cuts depends on whether Republicans are willing to accept any increases in tax revenues.

Before the talks led by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. broke off 12 days ago, negotiators said, they had reached substantial agreement on many cuts in the growth of Medicare, which provides care to people 65 and older, and Medicaid, which covers lower-income people. Those proposals are still on the table when Congress reconvenes this week, aides said, and are serious options that Democrats could accept in exchange for Republican concessions that raise revenues.

“Congress smells blood,” said William L. Minnix Jr., the chief lobbyist for nonprofit nursing homes.

I’ll bet they do. Wow, that is some negotiating. We’ve already agreed to deeply cut programs for the poor and elderly, but we simply won’t cut any more unless you agree to some nominal “reform” of the arcane tax code or ending some subsidies from hugely profitable oil companies. Or something. Seriously, we mean it. Not one more old, sick person on the chopping block until you pony up with something.

This is the most amazing “negotiation” I’ve ever seen. The Democrats just keep giving the Republicans everything they could possibly want and the Republicans just keep telling them to take a hike. It may be kabuki, but it’s become a total farce. And the truly hilarious thing about it is that the Republicans are going to destroy the Democrats in 2012 for being the ones to propose cuts to programs that people rely on and then holding the Republicans hostage with further demands for taxes. (You think they won’t? Or that a number of people aren’t confused enough to believe them?)

At this point, no matter what happens the deal is a disaster. Democrats have offered up cuts in health care programs to raise the debt limit — a previously pro-forma vote that the Republicans already said they would raise. Who knows what else they’re going to give up before it’s all said and done? In return? Well, I suppose the Republicans will have to agree to some phony accounting gimmicks that looks like a tax hike and then stage a vote so the Tea Partiers can all vote against it in principle and then “hold out” for something more. (Indeed, I expect they are completely gobsmacked that they’ve gotten cuts beyond anything they dreamed of when this whole thing started and rightfully see no margin in wrapping this thing up before they have to.) Even David Brooks is impressed at how deeply the Democrats have agreed to cut — but I think he needn’t worry about his GOP brethren failing to come around. Boehner and Cantor have things well in hand. Indeed, they’ve already won, no matter what kind of symbolic tax hike they end up agreeing to.

It makes you wonder just what they all have on tap for the really big negotiations in a few months: the FY 2012 budget. I assume the administration has gotten assurances that any more cuts are “off the table” until after the election right? Right?

Comments