The White House is saying the so-called “bi-partisan” debt ceiling deal “removes the cloud of uncertainty over our economy at this critical time, by ensuring that no one will be able to use the threat of the nation’s first default now, or in only a few months, for political gain;
“Locks in a down payment on significant deficit reduction, with savings from both domestic and Pentagon spending, and is designed to protect crucial investments like aid for college students;
“Establishes a bipartisan process to seek a balanced approach to larger deficit reduction through entitlement and tax reform;
“Deploys an enforcement mechanism that gives all sides an incentive to reach bipartisan compromise on historic deficit reduction, while protecting Social Security, Medicare beneficiaries and low-income programs;
“Stays true to the President’s commitment to shared sacrifice by preventing the middle class, seniors and those who are most vulnerable from shouldering the burden of deficit reduction; the President did not agree to any entitlement reforms outside of the context of a bipartisan committee process where tax reform will be on the table and the President will insist on shared sacrifice from the most well-off and those with the most indefensible tax breaks.”
The “deal” – if approved by both houses of Congress (something that remains to be seen) – “immediately enacts a 10-year discretionary spending caps generating nearly $1 trillion in deficit reduction; balanced between defense and non-defense spending.”
The “deal” authorizes the President (by Congress – if it passes) to increase the debt limit by at least $2.1 trillion, eliminating the need for further increases until 2013. Everyone needs to understand that the financial side of all things in government originates in the United States House of Representatives – currently controlled by the Republican Tea Party (GOTP) – and it’s upon their collective shoulders that debt originates from. The President can’t spend a dime without Congressional – particularly the House – approval.
The “deal” creates a bipartisan committee (also being dubbed the uber-committee) process tasked with identifying an additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction, including from entitlement and tax reform. Committee is required to report legislation by November 23, 2011, which receives fast-track protections. Congress is required to vote on Committee recommendations by December 23, 2011. This is something never done before; it’s extra-constitutional in nature and will prove interesting to see how – or if – it functions, and to see if its creation – or decisions – isn’t soon challenged before the Supreme Court.
The “deal” also creates an “enforcement mechanism” established to force all parties – Republican and Democrat – to agree to balanced deficit reduction has been put in place so that if the uber-committee fails, then the enforcement mechanism will trigger spending reductions beginning in 2013 – split 50/50 between domestic and defense spending. Enforcement protects Social Security, Medicare beneficiaries, and low-income programs from any cuts. It’s the Terminator for budget reduction; of course once it is released it will be fascinating to see if it can be controlled, or if it will simply run a muck through the halls of Congress saying “Hasta la vista, baby”.
The bi-partisan “deal” – if approved – supposedly removes the cloud of economic uncertainty until 2013, eliminating the economy to move forward without the mill stone of the Tea Party Congress dragging it down; which is a good thing since most independent analysts, economists, and ratings agencies – meaning anyone not on the payroll of FOX PAC and the Heritage Fundation (yes it’s a deliberate misspelling) – have all made clear that a short-term debt limit increase would create unacceptable economic uncertainty by risking default again within only a matter of months and as S&P stated, increase the chance of a downgrade. By ensuring a debt limit increase of at least $2.1 trillion, this deal removes the specter of default, providing important certainty to our economy at a fragile moment. The plus side is – if Congress approves it – that this puts the crazies in the closet until after the 2012 election when hopefully most of them have been defeated and the Congress can reach a normal level of grid-lock as compared to the Mad Hatter’s Wild Tea Cup Ride we’ve all been exposed to of late.
The “deal” is supposed to provide more than $900 billion in savings over 10 years by capping discretionary spending including savings of $350 billion from the base defense budget; which are the first defense cuts since the 1990s and which are supposed to be implemented based on the outcome of a review of our missions, roles, and capabilities that will reflect the President’s commitment to protecting our national security. Which means these cuts may never happen at all. To be sure the war rabid Tea Party members of Congress will never vote to cut defense spending, not while the specter of “Islamic Fascism” is repeatedly resurrected whenever FOX PAC needs a ratings boost.
But it doesn’t just cut defense spending; the other $550 billion will be taken from domestic discretionary spending, which will – if approved – drop to the lowest level since Dwight D. Eisenhower was President (1953-1961).
Allegedly the “deal” is designed to achieve balanced deficit reduction, consistent with the values the President articulated in his April Fiscal Framework. The discretionary savings are spread between both domestic and defense spending. And the President will demand that the uber-committee pursue a balanced deficit reduction package, where any entitlement reforms are coupled with revenue-raising tax reform that asks for the most fortunate Americans to sacrifice. The fact the President will have the option to push for tax increases may be the deal breaker for the Tea Party Freshman, who claim they will never vote for any tax increase. This appears to be the spoonful of sugar meant to help the medicine of domestic cuts easier to swallow by the Democrats.
Additionally, it appears that the Terminator enforcement mechanism complements the forcing event already in law which is the expiration of the Bush Tax Cuts; it appears it will force the uber-committee’s hand into allowing the Bush tax cuts to finally expire on 1 January 2013. In effect, if the uber-committee fails to come up with 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. If the President is re-elected – with seems entirely possible – it is certainly probable that the Bush Tax Cuts will expire, with or without a deal from the uber-committee as nothing says the President has to allow them to continue.
While there will be cuts in domestic spending, it appears 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 not only proposals in the House Republican Tea Party Budget that would have undermined the core commitments of Medicare to our seniors and forced tens of millions of low-income Americans to go without health insurance, but also enforcement mechanisms that would have forced automatic cuts to low-income programs. The Terminator enforcement mechanism in the deal exempts Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare benefits, unemployment insurance, programs for low-income families, and civilian and military retirement. It will be interesting to see where the uber-committee finds places to cut considering all the programs protected. Of course all of this is dependent on whether or not the severely weakened Speaker – John Boehner – has the political muscle to force it through the House.