What’s the Big Deal?

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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What’s the Big Deal? Here is the White House “fact sheet” on the debt-ceiling deal. Raises as many questions as it answers! Specifically:

1) Exactly why is it important that the “sequester”–the across-the-board cuts triggered if there is no second-round deficit deal–happens on “the same date” (1/1/13) the Bush tax cuts expire? How does this give Obama any extra leverage? Here’s the White House:

These two events together will force balanced deficit reduction. Absent a balanced deal, it would enable the President to use his veto pen to ensure nearly $1 trillion in additional deficit reduction by not extending the high-income tax cuts.

Um, OK. But couldn’t he use his veto pen to not extend the high income tax cuts if the “sequester” date came a month before, or two months before? Either way, the expiration of the cuts gives him leverage–he can bargain away his veto as part of the second-round negotiation. Bonus question: Isn’t that what Obama is more or less explicitly promising to do here? P.S.: Of course, the leverage from the tax-cuts’ expiration is leverage Obama had before these negotiations began–not something he’s gained as part of the deal. Was synchronizing the dates a way of making it look like the President had gained something when in fact he’d merely not lost it? …

2) The “fact sheet” boasts that the

President stood firmly against proposals that would have placed the sole burden of deficit reduction on lower-income and middle-class families. This includes … proposals in the House Republican Budget that would have undermined the core commitments of Medicare to our seniors …

It’s a little rich for Obama to say he protected the “core commitments of Medicare” when he had basically agreed to raise the eligibility age from 65 to 67 (and certainly entertained the idea).  Seems like a “core” issue to me, especially if you are 66. … Note also that the White House only pledges to stand firmly against proposals that place the “sole” burden of deficit reduction on middle class entitlements. Throw in some tax hikes and hey, what’s a “core commitment” between friends? It’s clear, if it wasn’t before, that Obama is not a friend of Medicare as we know it.

3) The Pell Grant President: “The deal provides specific protection in the discretionary budget to ensure that the there will be sufficient funding for the President’s historic investment in Pell Grants …. “** So this is what the Obama Presidency is all about? Pell Grants? That seems only a little more inspiring than Micahel Dukakis’ UDAGs and CDBGs. [The Obama Presidency is about extending non-Medicare health insurance to virtually everyone-ed Why doesn’t he say that? Oh, right. He didn’t make the sale–it’s unpopular. So let’s make a big deal about Pell Grants.]


**PHIPG–The phrase “President’s Historic Investment in Pell Grants” is repeated twice, verbatim, for the proper Great Leap Forward effect.

Mickey Kaus