The White House surprised Democratic leaders late Wednesday night, when newspapers reported that President Obama would push a "bold" debt-reduction plan that includes significant cuts to Social Security and Medicare. In exchange for Democrats' tampering with those cornerstones of progressive politics, Republicans would reportedly have to agree to major new tax revenues, and a hike in the nation's $14 trillion debt ceiling. (If no deal on the debt ceiling is reached by August 2, the federal government will exceed its legal borrowing limit, and default on its debts.) For many wary Democrats, Obama's recommendation is a "stunning move." And Republicans have thus far remained relatively steadfast in their refusal to raise tax revenue. Could Obama's overtures really lead to a "grand bargain" on the debt?
There's no way anyone agrees to this: This plan would require a "huge concession" from both parties, says Amy Walter and Z. Byron Wolf at ABC News' The Note. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is going to have a lot of trouble convincing the Tea Party-friendly "government slashers" in his caucus to raise taxes. And considering the increasingly "less-than-chummy relationship" between Obama and House Democrats, getting the Left to agree to Social Security cuts is the equivalent of "sacrificing a sacred cow." Obama's proposal is certainly bold — perhaps too bold.
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Obama's offer is just a political move: "If the debt ceiling is going to cave in," says Ezra Klein at The Washington Post, Democrats are going to "make sure it does so on the Republicans." Given the deals that the GOP has already turned down, it doesn't seem likely that Republicans will agree to $1 trillion in new tax revenues. Obama's proposal to cut Social Security and Medicare is, therefore, just political "theater," an attempt to win bipartisan support from voters by making it look like Democrats bent over backwards in an attempt to reach a debt deal. The White House is merely showing its "interest in a compromise even though there's no compromise on the table." Social Security is safe.
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It could happen… if lawmakers act like adults: The proposed plan will certainly "bother" Democrats more than Republicans, says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. But both sides need to stop being so stubborn. While cutting Medicare and Social Security would deprive Democrats of a valuable 2012 campaign issue, they "have to give up the illusion that entitlement reform is out of the question." Similarly, it's time for the Republicans to give a little on tax revenue. "This sounds like it could be the beginning of a real solution to the impasse."
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