White House reponds to GOP's counteroffer: Sorry, wrong number, not going there

Despite Republicans’ significant concession that they would be amenable to revenue increases if they came via tax-code reform — an honest-to-goodness effort at compromise — President Obama has roundly refused to even consider a plan that doesn’t include tax-rate increases on the wealthy, the only apparent policy rationale being that it’s just that important to him to be a full-on class warrior. It looks like the White House is sticking to that line, even after Speaker Boehner officially released the GOP’s own proposal earlier this afternoon. So much for “negotiation,” via BuzzFeed:

“The Republican letter released today does not meet the test of balance,” Pfeiffer said. “In fact, it actually promises to lower rates for the wealthy and sticks the middle class with the bill. Their plan includes nothing new and provides no details on which deductions they would eliminate, which loopholes they will close or which Medicare savings they would achieve.” …

Pfeiffer continued:

Independent analysts who have looked at plans like this one have concluded that middle class taxes will have to go up to pay for lower rates for millionaires and billionaires. While the President is willing to compromise to get a significant, balanced deal and believes that compromise is readily available to Congress, he is not willing to compromise on the principles of fairness and balance that include asking the wealthiest to pay higher rates. President Obama believes – and the American people agree – that the economy works best when it is grown from the middle out, not from the top down. Until the Republicans in Congress are willing to get serious about asking the wealthiest to pay slightly higher tax rates, we won’t be able to achieve a significant, balanced approach to reduce our deficit our nation needs.

Uh, not balanced? What the heck type of scales are they using? Ohhh, that’s right, the “fairness”/ “my way or the highway” scales. Are they really not going to move from their original demand-for-surrender and walk toward the GOP even a tiny bit? Like Keith Hennessy wrote in today’s WSJ, it’s starting to feel a lot like President Obama just can’t take yes for an answer:

Mr. Obama says reductions in ObamaCare spending are out of the question, and Congress must now agree to at least $50 billion in new stimulus spending next year. The debt limit must be permanently increased without accompanying spending cuts.

By contrast, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have offered on behalf of Republicans a significant concession in an attempt to close the negotiating gap. Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell propose to accept higher taxes on the rich as long as government spending is cut significantly and incentives to work and invest are not weakened. That way, higher taxes and entitlement-spending cuts would reduce future deficits, not finance even bigger government as the president proposes.

Unfortunately, it appears that President Obama cannot take yes for an answer. Republican leaders have shown him a legislative path to lock in his top policy priority with a strong bipartisan vote. Their proposal splits their own caucus, yet still the president refuses because he thinks he can get even more.

And, of course, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid quickly followed suit with the White House’s statement:

“To protect millionaires, Speaker Boehner’s offer would force middle class families to pay higher taxes. Raising taxes on the middle class is bad policy and flunks the test of balance. To protect the middle class while reducing the deficit, simple math dictates that tax rates must rise on the top two percent of taxpayers next year. The sooner Republicans grasp that reality, the sooner we can avoid the fiscal cliff.

“Democrats are willing to compromise, but any agreement must protect the middle class. We have also been clear that we have no intention of kicking the can down the road. Not only does Speaker Boehner’s proposal delay revenues into 2013, it sets up another destructive fight over the debt ceiling first thing next year.

Simple math, really? Because, as Jen Rubin explains, the Republicans’ plan would do far more in terms of balanced deficit-reduction that the president’s proposal:

A House leadership aide told Right Turn that “the GOP offer includes more deficit reduction than the White House offer last week, which included hundreds of billions in new stimulus’ spending. Our net deficit reduction is $2.2 trillion, but if we were to utilize White House schemes to count (1) previously-enacted Budget Control Act savings, (2) a war savings gimmick, and (3) further interest savings, our proposal would result in $4.6 trillion in deficit reduction savings, much more than theirs.”

So we have the potential for a deal that is somewhere between Bowles’s plan last year and the president’s plan.

That certainly was a quick and hard-line response from the White House — kinda’ like they already knew what they would say, no matter what the Republicans put on the table. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that…

“I think the president is increasingly showing his hand that he is comfortable going off the cliff,” Barrasso tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD, in response to a question about President Obama’s negotiation strategy. “He’s not involving Republicans in the process. He was playing golf this weekend with Bill Clinton, Ron Kirk, and ex-DNC chair Terry McAuliffe. He’s not seeming to be one to work together. He seems to be lecturing more than listening. And I just think that it’s increasingly clear he’s comfortable going off the cliff.”