Friday, April 05, 2013

One cheer for Obama - none for Boehner

Since I consider Social Security reform my specialty, let me give a nod of approval to President Obama who (apparently) is going to include modest entitlement reforms to his late budget.  As I've noted, Obama talks and talks about making these programs solvent for the next generation but never puts anything on paper.  Well, now he has, so let's acknowledge the proposal.

On the other side, it seems churlish of Speaker Boehner to reject the budget out-of-hand because it contains tax hikes.  First of all, that's what Obama does: class warfare and tax hikes.  But then of course Obama is going to seek something in exchange.  Perhaps it's a poison pill maneuver, but Boehner could have at least waited until the budget actually arrived at the Capital before ripping it apart.  Maybe this is all "a good offense is the best defense" inside-Washington gamesmanship, but I think the Republicans are blowing an epic opportunity here.

In my fevered mind, where debt is a cancer eating at the national soul, I think a dollar-for-dollar swap of new revenues for entitlement cuts is a good deal.  Furthermore, I think the Speaker could make the case for a deal this way: "We'll match revenues for entitlement reform but that includes the revenues from the taxes just raised in January."  There have been no commensurate spending cuts matched to these tax hikes - make them a starting point for budget negotiations.

Only Nixon could go to China and only a Democrat can reform our out-of-control entitlements.  Given the brewing backlash by the left wing against the One, I'm pretty sure he'll back down soon enough.  In the meantime, why not keep open the lines of discussion?  If there's an agreement to extend the lifetime of Medicare and Social Security, it will be good for the country and fairer for future generations.  If we can make it an even trade while neutering the Democrats' perpetual campaign cry, that's a win-win.

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