Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Gang of Six and the Grand Bargain

The Senate's so-called Gang of Six, a bipartisan group of Social Security opponents, are still making noises about the Grand Bargain. The Grand Bargain would be something along the lines that Democrats agree to phase out Social Security and Medicare, and Republicans agree to raise taxes on the wealthy.

Of course, one side's concession is much either to reverse than the other's. After the Republicans make the deal, a new Republican President will come along and decide that national security/economic growth/Christian fairness require that we free our billionaires of the terrible burden of having to pay taxes to support their country.

Digby (Catfood Formula Hullabaloo 04/26/2011) points to this version: Dan Friedman, Congress Looking at Forced Reductions to Address Budget and Debt Ceiling Issues National Journal 04/26/2011:

The Social Security component would aim to reduce spending on benefits over 75 years. Advocates of some Social Security reform, like Warner, hope to sell the plan by arguing that it will affect only Americans currently younger than 32 or 33 years old. But aides said the specifics of changes in benefits, and the age of those affected, are one of several remaining issues.

The gang is also widely expected to propose ways to cut spending on Medicare and Medicaid, likely including some means-testing to control Medicare costs. But the group has kept a tight lid on specifics.
Short version: let Grandma eat catfood.

But there's a catch, which Digby explains:

In public appearances in recent days, gang members have made it clear that their long-term deficit-cutting plan would include a trade in which Democrats agree to a long-term effort to trim spending on Social Security benefits while GOP members back efforts to increase tax revenue by ending tax deductions or loopholes. The package will not include any increases in tax rates, according to senators and multiple aides. [my emphasis]
In other words, this version of the much-awaited Gang of Six plan is that the Republicans get what they want, and promise to think about someday giving Democrats what they want. As Friedman notes of their purported plan on which they are still working, "Their proposal, based on a plan offered last year by the heads of Obama's bipartisan fiscal commission [Catfood Commission], would seek to cut spending by $3 trillion and increase tax revenue by $1 billion over a decade."

Digby worries that we could wind up with the Republicans voting for the Ryan plan and letting the Democrats pass a budget that included both increased taxes and cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Then the Reps could run against them both for raising taxes and for cutting popular programs like Social Security and Medicare.

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