From a messaging perspective, I like it. Nice and symmetrical. Want to tack another $2 trillion onto our national line of credit? No problem: First let’s find a way to cut $2 trillion so that we’re twice as far from reaching the new debt ceiling as we otherwise would have been.
Boehner’s political problem is that, having tossed out a figure this gigantic, he’s stuck with it now. Any compromise that falls far short of the magic number risks political catastrophe on the right.
Under Boehner’s vision, for example, Republicans would have to find more than $2 trillion in cuts if they wanted to raise the debt ceiling by that amount through 2012 — which is in line with Treasury’s estimates on the debt limit. But Republicans could also go for a more incremental increase in the debt ceiling, coupling that with a smaller offsetting cut in spending. Boehner’s preference is for immediate cuts, not promises to pare back spending in the future.
But by mentioning “trillions” in long term cuts, Boehner is clearly putting entitlement reform in play — including Medicare — since it would be near impossible to cut trillions without affecting entitlement spending.
Boehner will say that “everything is on the table … that includes honest conversations about how best to preserve Medicare, because we all know, with millions of Baby Boomers beginning to retire, the status quo is unsustainable. If we don’t act boldly now, the markets will act for us very soon.”…
“To increase the debt limit without simultaneously addressing the drivers of our debt — in defiance of the will of our people — would be monumentally arrogant and massively irresponsible,” Boehner plans to say, according to prepared remarks. “It would send a signal to investors and entrepreneurs everywhere that America still is not serious about dealing with our spending addiction. It would erode confidence in our economy and reduce certainty for small businesses. And this would destroy even more American jobs.”
A Gallup poll last week found that 67 percent of Americans, including 54 percent of Democrats, expect an entitlements crisis within the next year 10 years, so the magnitude of the problem might finally be penetrating public opinion. Nevertheless, I assume the “incremental” plan described in the blockquote is the way they’ll go. It’ll be similar to the series of two-week continuing resolutions that Boehner and Reid used to keep talks going during negotiations over the 2011 budget, except that instead of $4 billion, this time the sums will be more like $250 billion. How about that for starters if the left is unwilling to tackle reforming Medicare right now? A $250 billion increase in the debt ceiling in return for $250 billion in spending cuts?
Update: Maybe the incremental plan isn’t what they’re thinking after all:
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said Monday that Republicans will likely demand cuts to the budget worth $6 trillion over the next decade in exchange for voting to raise the national debt limit.
“You’re going to have to have significant upfront cuts,” he told reporters Monday. “You’re going to have to have significant constraints on future spending. You’re going to have to have an agreement on the next several years of budget numbers so we know exactly what those are. I think there will be other constraints on spending – there is more than one way to do that, I think there are several things that might be done.”…
“I think there will be some Medicare reform; it probably won’t satisfy Republicans in terms of what we think is necessary,” he said. “But I think it’s pretty difficult for the Democrats to simply take it all off the table.”
I wonder what they’ll end up settling for. Over/under: $100 billion.