Tuesday, July 12, 2011

50-50 Debt Compromise Suggested, President Obama Offers Medicare Deal, Democrats May Give Away Advantage, Snowe Supports Medicare

How About a 50-50 Deal?

Sen. Kent Conrad [D-ND] is proposing a 50/50 split between cuts and revenues on the 2012 budget.  "Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (N.D.) will brief Democratic leaders on a budget that significantly raises government tax revenues in order to reduce the deficit, according to Senate sources.  The plan will balance the burden of reducing the deficit roughly 50-50 between increasing tax revenues and cutting government spending, sources said...."

This is an interesting approach -- suggesting that both sides participate "equally" in their concessions.  (Unlikely in today's political climate.)  However, I'd like to see the analysis, since -- it seems to me -- the elderly and disabled may have much more to lose, maybe even per person, than do the wealthy.  I hope the analysis arrives very soon; I'm intrigued.  (Note that his proposal also proposes significant defense cuts.)

Obama: Medicare on Table

Earlier yesterday, "In his press conference on Monday morning, President Barack Obama repeatedly insisted that he was willing to tackle some sacred cows as part of a larger package to raise the debt ceiling.  Just how sacred, however, may surprise political observers.  According to five separate sources with knowledge of negotiations -- including both Republicans and Democrats -- the president offered an increase in the eligibility age for Medicare, from 65 to 67, in exchange for Republican movement on increasing tax revenues."

We can't tell whether this is a real offer -- which could become part of a deal -- or simply testing whether Conservative Republicans are willing to make suggestions of their own.  So far, Republicans have stuck to their demand with no concessions at all -- other than to claim, ridiculously,  that negotiating about the debt is itself a concession.  How are their demands -- no taxes for the rich coupled with fewer benefits for the aged, disabled, poor, unemployed, and large parts of the middle class -- in any way a negotiation or a concession?  How is it any way fair?

President Asks His Party to Have an Open Mind

"President Obama said both sides have to be willing to sustain some political pain in order to reach a deal on cutting the nation's long-term debt, and he urged his own party to accept changes to entitlement programs in order to wrangle some targeted tax increases out of Republicans."  The President says, "'It's not an option for us to just sit by and do nothing.  If you're a progressive that cares about [the] integrity of Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid ... then we have an obligation to make sure that we make those changes required to make this sustainable in the long term.'"

President Obama DOES look Presidential as he tries to bring the parties together from above the fray.  His strategy may involve demonstrating that an extreme Conservative ideology has gripped the Republicans -- which it has.  Take note that he has said that ALL the parts of a deal need to be in place before anything can happen; offers and suggestions are not carved in stone.

Losing the Medicare Advantage?

"Top Democrats in charge of keeping the Senate in Dem hands and maintaining the political health of the party -- DSCC chair Patty Murray and messaging chief Chuck Schumer -- have privately expressed frustration that deep Medicare cuts risk squandering the major political advantage Democrats have built up on the issue, people familiar with internal discussions say."  "'Schumer has consistently expressed the most concern,' a source familiar with recent leadership meetings says.  'Schumer has been on this bandwagon for weeks.'"

As we've said previously, it's difficult from a political perspective, to figure out what strategy President Obama is following.  Let's hope he has the best interests of all Americans in mind -- especially the aged and disabled who are in compelling need.

Senator Snowe Says Take Medicare Out of Budget Talks

"Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe (ME) said she will not support any debt deal that includes cuts to the two social safety net programs, citing 'strong bipartisan support.'  'There are solvency problems with both programs.  They have to be addressed but not as part of the debt reduction talks, Snowe told the Bangor Daily News."  The News also says, "Don’t look for members of Maine’s congressional delegation to support cuts in Social Security or Medicare as part of the debt limit legislation, but all four say a debt reduction package that includes budget cuts and new revenues is likely."

As we've been reporting, there are some cracks in the GOP facade -- particularly among the more "moderate" Republicans.  Will this translate into protection for people on Medicare?


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