Friday, December 13, 2013
Just when it looked like the nation might back away from the fiscal cliff, House Republicans have taken a decisive step toward the abyss.
What House Speaker John Boehner calls "Plan B," which extends tax breaks to the first $1 million of annual income and pays for it with tax increases and program cuts that affect the poor and middle class, is not a serious response to President Barack Obama's last compromise offer.
While Boehner knows that he has the votes to get his tax and spending cut bills through the House, he knows that they are going to be dead on arrival in the Senate. And President Obama said he would veto such a bill if one ever made it to his desk.
Like the 33 House votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Plan B stinks of political gamesmanship. With only two weeks left before the automatic tax increases and spending cuts kick in, it's a waste of time to consider this proposal, not just because it can't pass, but because it's bad public policy.
The Boehner plan would extend tax breaks to all Americans regardless of their income for the first $1 million they take home.
That might sound fair, except that millionaires and billionaires would receive, on average, $50,000 in tax breaks, while middle income wage earners would pay more because the Republicans would let the enhanced child tax credit expire.
In a separate bills, Republicans also propose repealing parts of the Affordable Care Act and cutting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or food stamps) as the way to cut the deficit.
This approach would hurt the economy by taking money out of the pockets of people who would spend it and giving it to people who don't need it and are likely to sock it away.
This sounds more like a recipe to dip back into recession than one to get the fiscal house in order.
The question of why the speaker would champion this plan is as troubling as the policy itself.
The best-case scenario is that he is putting forward a tough bargaining position to extract the best deal that he can for his party.
The worst-case scenario is that he knows that he cannot make a deal with the president that the majority of his caucus would support, and he won't risk his speakership by putting together a compromise with Democrats to avert another recession.
Hopefully, it's the first and Boehner will come back to the table with a real offer.