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Remember the Grand Bargain talks from last summer? We were told then that President Obama and John Boehner were on the verge of a Grand Bargain over government spending and taxes. Eventually, the bargaining talks collapsed which eventually led to the Great Debt Limit Crisis of August, 2011.....which in turn led to the the failed Super Committee....which took us to sequestration. Sequestration, (cutting approximately $110 billion per year starting January 1st, the cuts equally divided between defense and domestic discretionary spending) is what both sides are trying to avoid right now.
During the Grand Bargain talks this was reported....
According to five separate sources with knowledge of negotiations -- including both Republicans and Democrats -- the president offered an increase in the eligibility age for Medicare, from 65 to 67, in exchange for Republican movement on increasing tax revenues.
The proposal, as discussed, would not go into effect immediately, but rather would be implemented down the road (likely in 2013). The age at which people would be eligible for Medicare benefits would be raised incrementally, not in one fell swoop.
I have no idea what Obama was thinking then, but let's consider that Bargain just for the helluva it. In order to get Republicans to accept a measure which would raise the top 2%'s income tax rate by approximately 4%.......Obama was willing to "bargain" away the eligibility age of 65 for Medicare, raising it to 67.
Slightly increasing income tax rates on our richest Americans, an increase that would not even be felt by the top 2%......and in return.....all future retirees would have to.....make it....until 67 to qualify for Medicare. Anyone see a Bargain in that, let alone a Grand Bargain? A few hundred thousand extremely wealthy Americans paying additional income taxes they won't even miss.....in return for....millions and millions of average, elderly Americans waiting until they are 67 to qualify for Medicare,....waiting an additional two years for Medicare at the very time they are the most vulnerable to destructive and sometimes ruinous medical costs.
Although not explicitly calling for a Medicare age increase yesterday at his press conference, President Obama did say these things about entitlements....
"I believe that we have to continue to take a serious look at how we reform our entitlements, because health care costs continue to be the biggest driver of our deficits."
"And let's also then commit ourselves to the broader package of deficit reduction that includes entitlement changes..."
"We can then set up a structure whereby we are dealing with tax reform, closing deductions, closing loopholes, simplifying, dealing with entitlements. And I'm ready to -- and -- and willing to make big commitments to make sure that we're locking in the kind of deficit reductions that stabilize our deficit, start bringing it down, start bringing down our debt."
Some wonder why I consider Obama to be a center-right president. Wonder no more. Our nation is still in the midst of a painful and slow economic recovery where unemployment is hovering at 8%. Consumer demand is not strong enough to grow the economy enough to justify enough new hires.....and the private sector is basically impotent to make up for our lack of demand.
Now is not the time.........to be fretting over deficits and debt. A nation should tackle debt and deficits during boom times not during bust times. In fact, what government SHOULD be doing right now is spending more money to stimulate the economy.....temporarily.....until unemployment drops another 2 1/2%. And this is especially so with government borrowing rates at virtually zero.
Instead, what we heard from the President yesterday was... "reducing our deficit in a balanced and responsible way", "if we're going to be serious about deficit reduction, we've got to do it in a balanced way", "let's also then commit ourselves to the broader package of deficit reduction", and "I'm ready and willing to make big commitments to make sure that we're locking in the kind of deficit reductions that stabilize our deficit, start bringing it down, start bringing down our debt".
A progressive president, given our national economic condition, would not speak like that. Deficits and the national debt shouldn't even be on the table for discussion right now. Neither side really gives a damn about deficits anyway...and never have. Republicans are only resorting to banging the deficit drum right now because their wealthy benefactors smell a tax increase coming after Wall Street effed everything up......purposely veering over into the "we need lower tax rates" extremist lane to try to pre-empt calls for higher tax rates on the wealthiest.
No, we don't need a "balanced approach"......Americans need jobs and higher wages. Full stop. We don't need Grand Bargains with hostage takers whose only concerns are rewarding wealthy benefactors with more tax cut giveaways. And we most certainly do not need, nor want, a bogus tradeoff where taxes on the top 2% go up a few percentage points in return for millions and millions of vulnerable seniors being forced to fend for themselves for their health care until they are 67 years old.
Finally.....the U.S. is the wealthiest nation in world history.....and it's leaders are considering regressive steps regarding our treatment of the elderly, the poor and the vulnerable. Democrats just won the presidency, held the Senate and made gains in the House. The Democratic Party has historically stood on the side of progress for America's citizens. Going along with raising the Medicare age at this juncture would be a betrayal of the American people.....and a truly foolish political move.