The era of trying to strike a bipartisan grand bargain over entitlements, taxes, and the deficit appears to be over.
President Obama’s recently unveiled purposed budget for the 2015 fiscal year contained a minor but important omission. Unlike past budgets, it contains no proposal to cut future increases to Social Security payments. In past years the President’s preliminary budgets included proposals to reduce future increases in payments by slowing the automatic increases known as cost-of-living adjustments, by calculating them at a lower rate.
This may not seem like an important development, especially to people who don’t get Social Security payments, but it is an important symbolic step and very well may mark the end of a futile quest for a so called “grand bargain” over the future of entitlements, taxes, and the deficit.
Since the 2010 elections Washington has been in the grip of a never-ending quest to strike a so-called bipartisan grand bargain to limit future deficit spending. There have been a number of proposals over the years, but they all share a similar basic structure. Democrats would agree to cut future entitlement spending, a major Republican priority, and in exchange Republicans would agree to raise more tax revenue either by closing loopholes or raising taxes on the wealthy, major Democratic priorities.
But now all that appears to be over. According to reporting in The New York Times the White House sees compromise with the Republican Party as basically impossible:
“White House officials said on Thursday that since Republicans in Congress have shown no willingness to meet the president’s offer on social programs by closing loopholes for corporations and wealthy Americans, the proposed budget for the 2015 fiscal year will not assume a path to an agreement that no longer appears to exist.”
Regardless of who you chose to blame for this impasse, it’s pretty important. For years now centrist pundits and non-partisan groups like Fix the Debt have been arguing that the biggest problem facing America is not the jobs crisis but instead the danger of the national debt. And for years now much of the media went along with this analysis. Now that a grand bargain seems unlikely to happen as long as we have divided government we can probably more on to issues that compromise is possible on. And maybe, just maybe, actually get something done.
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