Mr. Cantor complained that the president, while insisting on additional tax increases, still has not embraced the structural changes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that he says are needed to strike a deficit reduction deal.
Even on the divisive tax issue, however, Mr. Cantor can sometimes sound as if he is leaving a door open. If Mr. Obama shows he is “serious about fixing the problem,” he said, “then we’ll see” about additional taxes.
(When pressed on the point, Mr. Cantor returned to his familiar position that the House would not back higher taxes.)
Chait thinks this might explain why the Republicans have been bizarrely insisting that the President has refused to cut the “entitlements” despite his repeated offers to do so — it’s a sort of self-serving delusion that they are “making him do it it” so they can justify making a deal. Otherwise, if they did come to agreement, they’d have entirely capitulated and they just can’t do that. Not after their bruising loss in the election and their agreement to allow some of the Bush tax cuts to expire when they swore they never would.
This makes sense to me. By calling for the “balanced approach” up front, the administration gave the Republicans no way to save face. The administration probably thought they were just creating a campaign slogan at the time (and that, if it came to it, the sequester and fiscal cliff threats would bring them to heel.) Now, the sequester is upon us and in order to agree to a Grand Bargain, the GOP is stuck trying to pretend they’ve “forced” the president to agree to entitlement cuts — and it just isn’t very convincing.
Now, I suppose it’s possible that the White House did all this to ensure that the Republicans wouldn’t come to the table, but that means they really wanted these sequester cuts, which I kind of doubt. The Grand Bargain has always been their stated goal. So this whole thing is the result of a series of negotiating blunders that has us inflicting austerity on the economy at a very bad time — with the prospect of austerity for the most vulnerable populations far into the future being the only alternative on offer.
The question is if the Republicans can figure out a way to pretend to their people that they got something out of this deal. The President hasn’t left them much room, so it’s going to take some creativity. Unfortunately, I’m going to guess that the only way they’ll be able to get there is for the president to first negotiate with himself to cut “entitlements” even more and raise revenue even less so they can tell themselves they got something out of the deal.
Everyone says he won’t do that no matter what, so that’s good.