Corker proposes bill matching debt ceiling hike to entitlement cuts

posted at 9:21 am on December 13, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

In an effort that offers more symbolism than action, Senator Bob Corker has offered a bill that takes Barack Obama at his word on deficit control.  The Dollar for Dollar Act raises the debt ceiling by $937 billion in exchange for exactly the same amount of savings in incremental reforms of entitlement programs (via Instapundit):

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) introduced a bill Wednesday to trade nearly $1 trillion in entitlement savings for an equal hike in the debt ceiling.

Corker said the Dollar For Dollar Act would include $937 billion in savings from Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, with an equivalent, dollar-for-dollar hike to the debt ceiling.

Corker said his plan is based on recommendations from the Bowles-Simpson Fiscal Commission and the Domenici-Rivlin Debt Reduction Task Force.

Why is this more symbolic than meaningful?  At the moment, it’s slightly off-topic.  The big issues being debated in the fiscal cliff negotiations are tax increases, and the budget cuts and sequestration fixes for which Republicans can trade them. Even Corker knows this will have to wait until February, as the GOP doesn’t want to discuss the debt ceiling until next year, since the US won’t hit the current debt limit for another couple of months.

Republicans want that leverage for broader entitlement reform than simply $94 billion a year. That amount of debt-ceiling increase won’t even get the US through one full budget cycle at the current level of deficits, and a $94 billion reduction will hardly impact it.  Finally, the Senate won’t take up anything that doesn’t include tax hikes, which means that this bill will disappear off the calendar in a few days.  Corker can reintroduce it in the next session of Congress, so it’s a basically a symbolic statement at this point in time.

That doesn’t mean it’s not worth keeping in mind, both on policy and on politics.  Corker wisely takes the modest reforms he offers from two well-known, bipartisan deficit-reform efforts, and also increases eligibility age for Medicare and Social Security.  Politically, it puts Obama on the spot with its “balanced” approach, although one has to point out that the savings are calculated over 10 years while the debt-ceiling hike takes place at once.  If Republicans give way on taxes this year in order to keep the debt ceiling as leverage in February, this kind of proposal should form the core of a Republican strategy to force Obama to reform entitlement programs that actually drive the massive deficits and debt crises we now face.

Update: Corker’s proposal includes switching to chained CPI, a new measure of inflation that most deficit-reduction proposals use but has had little support thus far in Congress.  National Journal has a good primer out this morning on chained CPI, and why it helps — and why its effectiveness is the core of its controversy:

Here’s how the new metric would save money: Social Security, federal pensions, and military and veterans’ benefits are indexed to rise each year with inflation; so are tax brackets, exemptions, deductions, and credits. But experts say the consumer price index the government currently uses overstates how rising prices affect household spending.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has come up with a more accurate measure, which accounts for consumers’ tendency to switch to cheaper categories of products when prices rise. Rather than looking at a fixed set of goods—as the standard formula does—the new measure looks at how the set of goods changes, and then “chains” two consecutive months of consumption data together.

The chained CPI rises a little more slowly than the current measure. So if the chained CPI were used to calculate cost-of-living increases, it would mean smaller increases to Social Security checks each year. If the chained CPI were applied to the tax code, it would move taxpayers into higher tax brackets faster.

Opponents of the chained CPI say that it would unnecessarily cut Social Security and other benefit programs, burden the oldest and sickest Americans, and hit almost everyone with a tax increase. The deficit-reduction plans floating around Washington—such as the Simpson-Bowles plan—recommend that a switch to chained CPI involves additional protections for the most-vulnerable beneficiaries.

As one person at the end of the article notes with some despair, if we can’t even agree to lower the rate at which entitlement benefits increase, then how are we going to agree to the cuts necessary to solve the deficit crisis?

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An agreement to tread water, awesome.

Bishop on December 13, 2012 at 9:30 AM

Kabuki Theater. We should have learned the other parts of Japanese culture before nuking them.

Archivarix on December 13, 2012 at 9:30 AM

Tax Man To Middle Class: Bend Over
http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials-perspective/121212-636852-middle-classes-real-target-of-tax-hikes.htm

Lots of deluded Obama voters no doubt truly believe “the mess we’re in” is due to “two unpaid for wars and irresponsible tax cuts for the rich.” End the wars and slap the rich with Clinton-era tax rates, and voila, watch the deficit and debt go poof!

But with Obama safely re-elected, some Democrats now speak the truth: The middle class, contrary to Obama’s promise, will see substantial tax increases in order to pay for the welfare state the voters once again signed on to by re-electing Obama.

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, appearing on MSNBC, said: “The only problem is — and this is, a little, initially going to seem like heresy from a progressive — the truth is everybody needs to pay more taxes, not just the rich.

The voters re-elected a leader who increased the national debt faster and by a greater amount than any previous administration. And there are simply not enough rich folks to pay for it.

Obama, on Nov. 6, won the political argument to continue to expand government. But the election did nothing to change “the math.” Memo to the middle class: Get ready, you’re next.

How long will it take before folks realize that the arbitrary bar of ripping off of the top 2% can be just as arbitrarily lowered to rip them off?

Galt2009 on December 13, 2012 at 9:31 AM

So, it’s 10:1 debt ceiling hike to spending reductions. The only thing this bill can be used for is campaign fodder (since Obama wouldn’t sign it) using the 10:1 line POTUS used on the GOP, and POTUS isn’t running any more.

Corker can keep quiet now. Please.

BKeyser on December 13, 2012 at 9:31 AM

As one person at the end of the article notes with some despair, if we can’t even agree to lower the rate at which entitlement benefits increase, then how are we going to agree to the cuts necessary to solve the deficit crisis?

Liberals believe in the printing of more money so they don’t really believe there is a crisis. Especially with their own pet programs.

Bitter Clinger on December 13, 2012 at 9:33 AM

Galt2009 on December 13, 2012 at 9:31 AM

That’s why the GOP must insist that Obama’s plan be scored. It’s standard fare usually, why is it not being done for this? The debt graph alone might help people to wake up and see what’s really going on here.

BKeyser on December 13, 2012 at 9:33 AM

John Maynard Keynes, meet Cloward-Piven.

On our side, not a spine in sight.

We are sooo screwed.

petefrt on December 13, 2012 at 9:40 AM

Senator Bob Corker has offered a bill that takes Barack Obama at his word on deficit control

LOL…his “word”, how about his “actions” of the past 4 yrs….

hillsoftx on December 13, 2012 at 9:41 AM

Refuse to negotiate until Harry Reid puts out a budget. Dems have yet to document their plan. The purse is the only weapon the GOP has. Use it or lose.

DanMan on December 13, 2012 at 9:41 AM

Senator, you’re talking through your rectum. Congress has a little over 23,000 staff and I’m suppose to listen to your trash? You Senators not only don’t do your job but you Senators are unable to do you job. My source. http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/the-number-of-congressional-staff-is-the-real-problem/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congressional_staff

There you have two sources, now shut up and start doing something constructive, and stop the BS.

mixplix on December 13, 2012 at 9:42 AM

Well, Pelosi knows how to rally her troops with the typical buzz words and boilerplate. She even has the Dem Senate stooges singing her song.
http://thehill.com/homenews/house/272701-dems-line-up-behind-pelosi-against-changing-medicare-eligibility-age-

onlineanalyst on December 13, 2012 at 9:45 AM

Galt2009 on December 13, 2012 at 9:31 AM

That’s why the GOP must insist that Obama’s plan be scored. It’s standard fare usually, why is it not being done for this? The debt graph alone might help people to wake up and see what’s really going on here.

BKeyser on December 13, 2012 at 9:33 AM

Which is why the Democratic Socialist Worker’s party insists on piling on the BS instead of seriously discussing the issue.

Galt2009 on December 13, 2012 at 9:46 AM

An agreement to tread water, awesome.

Bishop on December 13, 2012 at 9:30 AM

It’s even more awesome that such a weak solution has no hope of passing.

Ryan’s budget was derided as evil and immoral and it didn’t even balance the budget in less than a decade.

The liberals – and the court eunuchs in the media – have so thoroughly won the fight for public perception on the scale of our problems that even very tepid and half-baked solutions are not tenable. People won’t wake up until the checks stop.

gwelf on December 13, 2012 at 9:48 AM

Wow, since when did not increasing spending become reducing spending?

ProfessorMiao on December 13, 2012 at 9:52 AM

…put a cork in it Corker!

KOOLAID2 on December 13, 2012 at 10:02 AM

Corker is a worthless POS.

steebo77 on December 13, 2012 at 10:02 AM

Me thinks Senator Corker wants to be noticed. Notice me! Notice me!

His proposals are unimpressive. Thanks, Tennessee, for giving this guy 6 more years to be a progressive Republican representing us in Washington.

What a mess.

FastTalker on December 13, 2012 at 10:13 AM

Shut up, Corker. None of you are serious about stoppingg Obama. Again, this isn’t rocket science. It’s math and you are spending too much money, so stop it. All these stupid little plans and ideas don’t make up for the fact that none of you can control yourselves with our money. Child Obama is demanding more allowance and you idiots are thinking about giving it to him. There is no deal to be made. Nothing. Just stop him from spending. Vote against anything that he wants. Deals are stupid. Stop spending. Just stop it. That is why you were elected. Be the parents with tough love. No more allowance until we see serious cuts and that does include baseline budgeting. Stop the way DC does business.

BetseyRoss on December 13, 2012 at 10:13 AM

TOTAL MOONBATTERY AND SHEER THUGGERY

On the show of his friend and fellow Marxist, Al “Resist We Much” Sharpton, tinpot-dicKtator-lover, Harry Belafonte, had some advice for his buddy, Barack Obama, concerning what to do about all of those pesky Republicans and anyone else, who believe that entitlements must be reformed lest they be allowed to completely collapse the entire US economy and relegate the dollar to the ashbin of history alongside the German Papiermark, Hungarian pengő and old Zimbabwean dollar.

“Work like a Third World dictator and just put all these guys in jail.”

- Harry Belafonte

Watch: Belafonte on GOP: Obama Needs To “Work Like A 3rd World Dictator & Just Put Them In Jail”

When The Left opposes, The Left says: “Resist We Much!!!”

When The Right opposes, The Left says: “Take those SOBs out and throw ‘em in jail like a third-world dicKtator! Man up, Barack!”

Resist We Much on December 13, 2012 at 10:23 AM

So-called chained-CPI is just a fancy name for sanctioning ever more outrageous official lies about the inflation rate. The current CPI already understates inflation as it effects ordinary Americans.

By the logic of chained-CPI, there was no recession, nor could there ever be a recession. People just choose to switch to cheaper goods, while others choose no goods at all.

kunegetikos on December 13, 2012 at 10:25 AM

Corker needs to be primaried. He is undercutting the what slim efforts the GOP is making to do something real in an attempt to deceive the people of his state into thinking he wants to reduce the budget.

kunegetikos on December 13, 2012 at 10:27 AM

I see . . . tax an additional $1.00, then raise the debt ceiling by $1.00 and everything is peachy. Hogwash Corker, Obama will pump the $1.00 tax increase right back into his entitlement pool. We need to reduce the debt, not play a zero sum game. Where on God’s green earth do they find these idiots.

rplat on December 13, 2012 at 10:27 AM

if we can’t even agree to lower the rate at which entitlement benefits increase, then how are we going to agree to the cuts necessary to solve the deficit crisis?

“Solve the debt crisis”??!!! That’s so cute…

bofh on December 13, 2012 at 10:27 AM

. But experts say the consumer price index the government currently uses overstates how rising prices affect household spending.

Say what? The government inflation figure is a total work of fiction. Due to the devaluation of the dollar we are seeing real-life double digit inflation. QE4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 are only going to increase this. The Fed yesterday announced it is going to ‘buy’ an additional $40bn a month of government debt using unicorn sh*t.

CorporatePiggy on December 13, 2012 at 10:36 AM

So, save a trillion dollars over 10 years while increasing our spending limit a trillion dollars for one year. Does that sound reasonable?

astonerii on December 13, 2012 at 10:43 AM

An agreement to tread water, awesome.

Bishop on December 13, 2012 at 9:30 AM

We are not treading water.
We are way in over our heads, and we are chained to an infinitely massive weight dragging us deeper and deeper into the abyss.

astonerii on December 13, 2012 at 11:02 AM

Let it burn

Mr Snuggle Bunny on December 13, 2012 at 11:35 AM

Ed, you do know that it’s coming sooner than they’re (MSM) telling you…?

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2012-12-03/total-us-debt-hits-1636954879960493-debt-ceiling-just-63-billion-away

That article was on Dec 3rd, 2012 – we’re withing 40B now and I’ve not looked at auction data to see how much we’re closer…

http://www.treasurydirect.gov/RI/OFGateway

SkinnerVic on December 13, 2012 at 11:37 AM

I wish Corker well with the politics within his party.

Mr. Arrogant on December 13, 2012 at 11:46 AM

This guy’s a joke, as are all of our politicians.

They will not get serious about our true problem, ENTITLEMENT SPENDING, until the whole thing crashes. (And, at that point we’ll hear a whole lotta bunk about X and Y being the real problem, entitlements were fine and dandy.)

Inflation is going to rob generations of Americans, and the idiot masses don’t understand it, at all.

God, I wish I’d been born in a different era. An era where we weren’t bothered by these jackasses with such frequency. (Corker, Obama, Boehner, Pelosi…leave me the f*ck alone!! And get a real job, doing something productive.)

RedCrow on December 13, 2012 at 12:44 PM

Let it burn

Mr Snuggle Bunny on December 13, 2012 at 11:35 AM

I totally agree…

RedInMD on December 13, 2012 at 12:56 PM

When Corker or any of the other azzwipes in DC say something about cutting their entitlements, I’ll start to listen to them. They are some of the biggest “welfare” babies!!

johnny reb on December 13, 2012 at 2:35 PM