●To get to 30 percent without reducing taxes on the wealthy, Republicans agree to higher taxes on dividends and capital gains (profits from the sale of stocks and other assets). These are now taxed at no more than 15 percent — a huge benefit for the rich. Taxpayers with incomes exceeding $200,000 of income receive about 90 percent of the benefits, says the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
●Republicans support an increase in the federal debt ceiling of at least $2 trillion. The limit, now $16.4 trillion, will be reached early next year.
●Obama endorses sizable cuts in Social Security and Medicare — and pledges to campaign for them. This is Democrats’ quid pro quo for Republican tax concessions. In 2011, Social Security and Medicare cost $1.2 trillion and represented 36 percent of noninterest federal spending. Excluding them would make any deal too small or too reliant on tax increases and cuts in other programs. Eligibility ages must rise; benefits for wealthier retirees must fall.
●Recognizing that a balanced budget requires more spending cuts and higher taxes, the White House and Congress create two task forces: one to study an energy tax; the other to study controlling health costs, now a quarter of federal spending.