Paul Ryan’s giving a Facebook townhall at 7 p.m. ET and, since he’s bound to talk about the debt ceiling saga, I’m going to have this double as open thread for people watching. The livestream is embedded below or, if you’d rather watch in a separate tab, click right here. Can’t wait to see what Mr. Entitlement Reform makes of the curveball Obama threw this morning:
As part of his pitch, Obama is proposing significant reductions in Medicare spending and for the first time is offering to tackle the rising cost of Social Security, according to people in both parties with knowledge of the proposal. The move marks a major shift for the White House and could present a direct challenge to Democratic lawmakers who have vowed to protect health and retirement benefits from the assault on government spending.
“Obviously, there will be some Democrats who don’t believe we need to do entitlement reform. But there seems to be some hunger to do something of some significance,” said a Democratic official familiar with the administration’s thinking. “These moments come along at most once a decade. And it would be a real mistake if we let it pass us by.”…
Privately, some congressional Democrats were alarmed by the president’s proposal, which could include adjusting the measure of inflation used to determine Social Security payouts. But others described it as primarily a bargaining strategy intended to demonstrate Obama’s willingness to compromise and highlight the Republican refusal to raise taxes.
The proposed reform to Social Security, is, predictably economically pedestrian and just as predictably cause for angry table-pounding among House liberals. As for the rest of the deal, it’s anyone’s guess at the moment: Boehner and Peter King sounded optimistic about a bargain this morning but Obama insists they’re still “far apart.” All they’ve agreed on, allegedly, is that they want to go big, with no less than $3 trillion in total savings and maybe upwards of $4.5 trillion depending upon what happens in their meeting on Sunday. That’s smart politics from the Democrats, actually: It lets them share the “deficit hawk” label and it also adds pressure on the GOP to agree to revenue raisers. The higher the overall target is, the more creative Republicans will need to be to reach it. Which, maybe, is why we’re suddenly hearing about massive cuts in defense spending over the next 10 years. The GOP won’t cave on taxes but, to make a deal, they might cave on that. Watch for it on Sunday.
The X factor, then, is Medicare, and the left naturally is squealing about Obama stabbing them in the back, but as noted in the blockquote, it’s almost certainly a bluff. For one thing, Obama and Boehner will need some number of Democrats to get a deal through the House as plenty of Republican tea-party freshmen are bound to reject the package for various reasons. (Obama’s already planning to meet privately with Pelosi, no doubt to line up the necessary votes.) The harder the deal is on entitlements, the harder it’ll be to get the critical mass of Dems they need, which means … it can’t be all that hard on entitlements. Also, and needless to say, barring a major economic rebound, the party’s entire election strategy next year rests on demagoging Ryan’s plan; they’re not going to trade away that advantage, especially as part of a deal that won’t fix the program long-term anyway. And given the polling, why would they?
They can’t afford major entitlements cuts but, per this frightening James Pethokoukis post, they can’t afford not to cut either. Good politics vs. good policy: How I wonder which they’ll choose.
Here’s the Ryan livestream.