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Joe Conason
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Thursday 6 December 2012
Unless and until the Republicans start talking about real numbers that can actually add up, there is nothing to be gained from pretending to negotiate.

Arithmetic For Republicans: Why Boehner’s ‘Offer’ Just Doesn’t Add Up

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If President Obama honestly wants to negotiate an agreement with Republicans before the year-end fiscal deadline, he must be deeply frustrated. And if he doesn't really want to negotiate with them, then he should be delighted, for the same reason: Their latest "offer" laid before him by House Speaker John Boehner demonstrates again their refusal to reveal their true intentions — and their inability to do simple arithmetic.

Consider their treatment of Medicare, the popular social insurance program for seniors that Republicans have always despised. They have just emerged from a long national campaign in which they repeatedly and falsely claimed to "protect" Medicare from the president — whom they accused of wanting to slash $716 billion from the program — but now they complain that he won't cut it enough. The Obama cuts were mythical, but the Boehner budget proposal includes at least $600 billion in Medicare and Medicaid reductions.

Worse still, the Republicans propose to perform this crude surgery on Medicare without the slightest explanation of where they would cut. Washington rumors suggest that they would achieve some of those cuts over the next 10 years by raising the eligibility age by two years to 67 and by increasing premiums for more affluent beneficiaries.

As Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities pointed out on Tuesday, however, those changes would not begin to achieve the savings required by the Boehner proposal.

The same problem undermines the other aspects of Boehner's proposal, which includes $600 billion in additional unspecified cuts.

Either their arithmetic doesn't work — or, as Greenstein worries, they mean to inflict severe cuts in health and other services that would harm elderly and poor Americans, but want to conceal those consequences from the public.

Yet there is an even deeper problem with Boehner's arithmetic. The Republicans are fighting to extend all the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest two percent along with everyone else — but their alternative proposals are utterly inadequate to compensate for the $1.3 trillion in revenues lost by continuing those cuts for the rich. To "offer" $800 billion in new "revenues" obtained by eliminating deductions rather than raising rates simply doesn't work, as a matter of basic math. It isn't nearly enough money.

If Republican leaders cannot do the arithmetic, then it is impossible to negotiate with them. If they can do the arithmetic but insist on falsifying the answers, then it is both unwise and impossible to negotiate with them.

Unless and until the Republicans start talking about real numbers that can actually add up, there is nothing to be gained from pretending to negotiate. Nor should the president start negotiating with himself, as he has sometimes done in the past. Instead, he ought to make sure that the opposition understands what will happen when they fail to act responsibly. After Jan. 1, he will bring them an offer they cannot refuse to restore cuts for the 98 percent — and they will be held accountable for any consequences caused in the meantime by their stalling.


ABOUT Joe Conason

Joe Conason has written his popular political column for The New York Observer since 1992. He served as the Manhattan Weekly’s executive editor from 1992 to 1997. Since 1998, he has also written a column that is among the most widely read features on Conason is also a senior fellow at The Nation Institute.

How about this formula 1. The

How about this formula
1. The richest pay 1.8 Trillon top 2%
2 The nearly rich next (15%) pay 5% more
3. Everyone pays a minnimum of 5% We all get some services, should not be free, because unless everyone pays who would not want more if it is free
4. cut spending on defense, 10-15% see Eisenhower fear of the military industrial complex, bring home our troops to protect our borders,
5. Set a hard cap on spending, as a % of GDP
6. take the cap off of social security taxes for the individuals, and add one year to retirement age by increments of one month per year for the next 12 years.
7. double the penalities for medicare fraud and hire twice as many enforcement officers,
8 legalize marijauna and tax it like we tax booze, or more, you can buy it in every comunity in the US currently, it makes a mockery of our laws and fuels criminal enterprises and bring untold suffering to mexico
9. introduce public service requirement in order to receive welfare and unemployment, moderate not hour for hour,
10. increase corporate write offs for 15 year or longer equipment to increase long term investing in plant and long term equipment,
11. increase gas tax to pay for infrastruture, increase production to drive down prices, and use an energy tax to invest in alternative energy at the consumer level.
We have collectively messed up our finnances and we need to collectively have a sacrifice to fix it. There is no fix without everyone being unhappy.
Instead of fingerpointing and name calling how about we post reasonable solutions

Republicans haven't always

Republicans haven't always despised Medicare. Medicare was proposed and passed under Nixon with bi-partisan support. Only the most radical reactionary Republicans (who now control the party of Lincoln) want to do away with Medicare. It's up to the adults in the house to spank the tantrum throwers and send them to their room. I hope Obama is up to the parenting task.

I appreciate your analogy,

I appreciate your analogy, but these "children" that you speak of are actually grown, overly-greedy adults that are fully aware of what they're doing--they just don't give a damn. Let's call a spade, a spade--a large percentage of them are just Armani-suited criminals who really should be doing time amongst the general population of their nearest prison. And we Americans aren't off the hook either. We need to stop voting for incumbents who feel they're above the law--whether they're Republican OR Democrat. If our elected representatives will not abide by the will of the majority of the PEOPLE, then we need to kick them to the curb and hire new representation.

No, it was not "proposed and

No, it was not "proposed and passed under Nixon"! Fox news getting to you?

It was signed into existence by LBJ in 1965!

It was a apart of Johnson's "Great Society."

You might be thinking about the EPA that was Nixon's doing.

You're point, however, that Republicans and Democrats were a lot closer in ideology prior to the Regan era Ann Rand model of society on topics of healthcare, the environment, and general overall well-being of the masses is true.

Actually, Medicare was passed

Actually, Medicare was passed in 1965 under LBJ. But you are indeed correct that many Republicans in a by-gone era supported the program. Agreed entirely that the adults need to stand up and take charge of the recalcitrant children in Congress.



I have to differ with your account of Nixon passing Medicare. It was the creation of LBJ and the Democrats in Congress. It was passed into law on July 30, 1965, which, as we all know, was during LBJ's presidency. Nixon was not elected until Johnson's term was over. Johnson had no wish to run because of the growing protest against the Vietnam War, and a divided Democratic party could not manage to get Hubert Humphrey elected. That was in 1968.

I find the same information in a history book and on every site I've googled to verify it. I took this extra step because it sounded totally wrong to me when I scanned your post. Where did you get that information?

Anyway, the Republicans have never liked Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security, and they had nothing to do with the creation of the original programs.

Good to see I'm not the only

Good to see I'm not the only one who caught that! Thanks Nation readers!

the talk of raising the agre

the talk of raising the agre requirement for SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE has to be taken off the table... If you look at the difference in the life-spans of the Congress and the 1% - they live into their eighties......Workers many of which do not reach retirement age pay into these programs and never see any returns. Raising the age of Medicare is tha same as sending out the DEATH SQUADS....the deadheads of congress reap the rewards - while the life spans of the workers go down
. . . . . .

What's REALLY amazing... The

What's REALLY amazing...

The richest 2% got nearly ALL of the additional income created by the increased "productivity" of USAmerican WORKING PEOPLE over the last 30+ years...

And since reagan's policy was put in place and continued to this day, a policy that BORROWED from the rich (primarily to build up the war machine) instead of taxing them further redirected WORKING PEOPLE'S incomes to the top 2%...

And now, when asked to contribute to "pay down" the deficit created by borrowing from the rich instead of taxing them their counter-proposal is more cuts for the poorest among us -- and additional tax cuts for the rich...

Freakin' Amazing...

Why aren't we chopping their goddamn heads off?

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