Taxes & Spending

Secrecy in Budget Talks to Obama’s Advantage

You can sum up in one word why Republicans are finding it tough to build public support for major spending cuts before the debt limit might be raised.  That word is “secrecy.”

By agreeing to closed-door meetings, Republicans have enabled President Obama to mislead the country about his positions and to mischaracterize the GOP’s goals.  Using his bully pulpit, the President can promote a false picture of what’s gone on outside of the public view, while the other side is muted.

Obama’s messaging has been trumpeted loudly by the media.  Meanwhile, details leaked from the meetings that don’t jibe with his message have gone mostly unheralded.  Those details reveal that the “cuts” Obama supposedly would accept are mostly an agreement that politicians would reduce spending years from now—but almost nothing would happen any time soon.

For example, Obama’s supposed willingness to raise the age of Medicare eligibility?  Turns out it wouldn’t happen until 2029, and then it would rise by only one year, to age 67.  That ballyhooed $1 trillion in “agreed” spending cuts?  Turns out to be maybe $55 billion, with only $2 billion of that in the first year.

Oh, and by the way, the President also wants more than $100 billion in new spending added to the package.  No wonder the White House insisted on secrecy in its budget talks!

The false nature of Obama’s pretended compromises should have been declared daily.  But by agreeing to closed doors, the GOP has been complicit in not publicizing those details.  And because alternative legislation was not being offered (until “Cut, Cap and Balance” this week), there was no attention-grabbing action to rival the private talks.  That has enabled the President, his team and his teleprompter to control the media portrayals of the talks.

Rather than highlighting how they want only legitimate spending cuts (in both discretionary and entitlement programs), the GOP gets stuck with a false image of caring only about “tax cuts for the rich.”  Because most Americans no longer pay federal income taxes, this paints the GOP into a corner.

It’s taken too long for details to leak out, so they have become stale news to most media.  Sen. Jon Kyl (R.-Ariz.) was the first whistle-blower to sound the alarm about the phony claims and the budget gimmicks.  The supposed $1 trillion in agreed-upon cuts, Kyl told National Review Online, would actually be only around $55 billion.  Meantime, Democrat negotiators are talking about $113 billion in new spending.

As National Review Online‘s Andrew Stiles writes:  “Another point of contention in the talks, Kyl explains, is that roughly 75% of the “savings” proposed in non-health-care mandatory spending are achieved through revenue mechanisms such as fee increases, which technically aren’t classified as tax hikes, but certainly highlight the Democrats’ fundamental unwillingness to reduce spending.
Kyl says at this point he can identify only about $55 billion in actual reductions to federal spending.

Only after the talks collapsed did we learn that a scant $2 billion would be cut from discretionary spending during the next year.  The Washington Times reports, “That’s a mere 0.3% cut overall.”

The $2 billion first-year figure comes from White House Budget Director Jack Lew.  So if the $1 trillion claim were to be believed, it must be based on the fantasy notion that future Congresses will make the remaining $998 billion in cuts.

Talk of other options—including a $4 trillion-plus grand plan, have similar problems:  The supposed savings are back-loaded, just as the supposed $35 billion savings from negotiations this spring turned out to be only $350 million in current savings—if even that much.

It’s also unclear whether those minimal cuts are true reductions from this year’s spending levels, or proposed reductions in already-planned increases.  Only with Washington, D.C.’s fuzzy math can spending go up even when officials claim to cut it.

But any first-year savings would be dwarfed by the new spending that Kyl reports Obama wants to include in the package:  Another $43 billion for unemployment insurance.  And $33 billion more for Pell grants.  And $10 billion for medical grants.  And $27 billion for the medical profession’s perennial “Doc Fix.”

The falsity of Obama’s claimed willingness to adjust entitlements was finally revealed this week by Politico:  “The record of exchanges between Obama and the speaker do show major structural changes to Medicare have been discussed, albeit on a time line that [House Speaker John] Boehner appears to have found frustrating.  Medicare’s eligibility age would be raised to 67 over many years, but would only reach 66 by 2029 under one proposal.  And while the administration opened the door to requiring many more Medicare recipients to pay steeper income-related Part B premiums, that would have limited impact in the first 10 years.”

By conducting talks in secret, all parties made it easier to use budget gimmicks and misleading rhetoric in their planning.  They have limited the ability of the public in general and Tea Party groups in particular to track and prepare for whatever plan might ultimately be unveiled.

The closed-door negotiations were designed to benefit political interests more than the public interest.  By dragging on for weeks, the talks brought us closer to deadlines.  That makes it easier to create a hyped-up sense of urgency, pushing Congress to act with haste rather than with wisdom.

Government should make its big decisions in the open, not in private.

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  • PR_Ohio

    Is that a fact? You mean like how the Republicans did with the whole Obamacare fiasco and told us we would have to wait until they passed it to find out what was in it? Oh wait…

  • Martin Hale

    Does Mr. Obama lie?  Beyond any shadow of a doubt.

    Is Mr. Obama playing politics instead of seriously looking after the best interests of the nation?   Beyond any shadow of a doubt.

    Is Mr. Obama committed to a course of action which will essentially remake America into a Euro-style social democracy?  Beyond any shadow of a doubt.

    But, (and I kind of hate to say this because I know there are fair number of Republican supporters present), you have to admit that secrecy is just as strategically advantageous to the Republicans with respect to these talks as it is to the Democrats.  Both parties and almost all the individuals engaged in this debate would much prefer that the dumb old public not be given many opportunities to figure out what’s really going on.  They trust in the fact that many people, given the limited information they have about the issues, and given their general lack of knowledge, will just go away scratching their heads, confused.  Like demented wizards of fictitious lands, the politicians want to remain hidden behind the curtain, feverishly working the levers of deception while doing nothing substantive about our long-term money problems.

    Secrecy is what allows both parties to act like they’re actually doing something about our indebtedness while in fact, they’re all proposing paths which, to one degree or another, add to our debt, raise new revenues for government and do little to reduce long-term entrenched entitlement spending.

    I can almost guarantee that at the end of this ‘drama’ we’ll be told of a compromise deal which trims future spending by a little, allows Congress to continue to deficit spend, and which raises taxes.  And we’ll be told it’s a good thing.

  • irishbaratone

    Its what he does, your blog is right on. why can’t others see it?? confused in Pa!!

  • Grumpy56

    I have already suggested that the GOP agree to raise the debt limit on a monthly basis as needed to meet the budget and that they accompany them with dollar for dollar spending cuts. I would suggest that at this juncture, the GOP make the following statement. “We accept that there is no possibility of developing a positive, long term strategy as long as President Obama occupies the White House. For the good of the country, we repeat that the only fair and equitable way to deal with current realities is to raise the debt limit as needed, even if that be each month and accompany them with equal spending cuts. That is as fair and reasonable as it gets.”

  • Bob

    It is never right to do wrong that right might come of it.

    If not now, when?… When are you guys going to start doing right? 
    I pray it’s not to late when you do.

  • Wil

    “You’re Traveling Thru Another Dimension” “A Dimension Not Only of
    Sight & Sound but of Mind” “A Journey into The Wondrous World of
    imagination, Next Stop The Twilight Zone” 

  • Wil

    Gang of six proposes construction of large light for
    seniors to walk towards.

  • Mr. EMT

    Don’t think for a minute he is just “voting present”
    He isnt.
    Blame his handlers or whatever all you want, bottom line his finger is the one on the trigger aiming the weapon of destruction at our constitution.
    His policies and agenda is designed for only one thing.
    Crush the independence of the American Citizen and institute dependance on the government through socialist programs.

  • rebelyell4

    Obama cannot hold public meetings. He has some quirks we would plainly see if he got irritated. His basic instinct when presented with a problem is to stomp his feet and pout like a young girl would.

    So, we need another assignment for the TEA party animals, pass some legislation to force sunshine laws on meeting such as these. Military things might be something else, but this is for public consumption. We have to pay for all this, lets see it.

  • Mr. EMT

    I think by now everyone gets it… except maybe a fringe few who live with their heads buried in the sand watching Oprah and “real housewives” who manage to avoid politics and news and current events and have no clue what is going on in the world around them.

    You are dealing with a Silent Majority, who are too busy going to work, working 40+ hour weeks to make ends meet, verses a squealing minority who have nothing better to do than organize themselves to go to rallies and protests and act like a bunch of brainless brownshirt commiecons braying for their free hand outs and entitlements and claiming that anyone who doesnt give them what they ask for is greedy and has no heart for the suffering of the poor and elderly.

  • Mr. EMT

    Not 500 million.
    Thats like Dr. Evil holding the world ransom, obamao spends that much replacing michelle’s skidmarked undies.
    No 500 billion is how much obamao took from medicare to force people to swallow obamacare.

    and honestly, when you want to hold obamao to task over his outrageous crimes against the nation… where do you start and where do you end?
    I have narrowed it down to 3 major crimes, but there are dozens and dozens of others which all bear fruit from the same corrupt tree causing their own crimes.

  • Mr. EMT

    If i were to donate money to any political organization it wold not be the RNC, but another group that actually puts the money to good use pushing constitutional reforms through.

  • Mr. EMT

    that would be the urban dictionary’s obamaton definition.

  • Mr. EMT

    Most rediculous claim on the boards today.
    No doubt you live in lala land where obamao is being forced to endure secret meetings due to the leverage republicans are holding over him.
    Yes, the GOP has the real birth certificate under lock and key and is using it only to manipulate obamao into having secret meetings behind closed doors where obamao is allowed to come out and claim only what the GOP allow him to say…..

    Seriously, get your head out of your ass and sit in your corner and drool while the adults talk among themselves.

  • Thomas

    That is not true; most people either don’t pay attention, or have only paid the least attention possible thus far. This is why any deal the GOP agrees to should be small, include instant spending decreases with a major concession in it like Obama-care or de-funding all abortion and procedures and products connected with an abortion.

    Then after a small increase in debt connected to a big cut the GOP should insist that all debates on further increases happen in the open and with the cameras rolling so that all the talk all the time will be on how the moeny is spent and that that is causing the danger.

    The GOP is doing business as usual in “looking for the best deal they can get”. The new way needs to be if we can’t get an acceptable deal we will let the debt ceiling put the pressure on until we get an offer we like. In the mean time we can talk about where the money went and where it is still going, and how much government workers get paid, and corporate welfare/ crony-capitalism.

  • Thomas

    Q; What do you call a GOP controlled whitehouse, senate and house with one rino?

    Q; A Democrat controlled federal government