Never Underestimate your Enemies: Fiscal Curb Comments

Crossposted from Democratic Convention Watch

We know where the President stands. If you don't know the details, the facts and infographics are here. If you want to follow on Twitter, the White House fiscal cliff hastag is #My2K (for the $2000 the average family will lose if nothing is settled.)

We know where the progressives stand: NO cuts to Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security, and no raise of the age for Medicare to 67. 

But do we know where Boehner and his caucus stand? Actually, not really. The plan that he put forward yesterday is a rehash of the Ryan budget with even fewer details (yeah, that shocked me too, I didn't think they could include less.) He called it the "Bowles Plan", indicating that these were Erskine Bowles ideas from Simpson-Bowles last year, but Bowles himself said Boehner was wrong. Be advised that the difference is in the details. Some of the things that Boehner proposed were in Simpson-Bowles, but the fundamental axiomatic assumption made in Simpson-Bowles, to get to their numbers, was the complete end of all Bush tax cuts. Once that is left out (as it is in the Boehner/Ryan plan) it's all ridiculous, as pointed out by both the President and the media not beholden to the far right. Boehner's plan listed out entitlement cuts, and a raise of the Medicare age to 67, but listed nothing about actual tax rate changes. You can read the letter here.

Boehner's plan was in a letter to the president. Obama's plan is detailed, but not in legislative form. There actually is a piece of legislation, which passed the Senate, but which the House has never taken up. Nancy Pelosi wants to bring it to the House floor. Normally, the minority party can't get that accomplished against an intransigent majority, but there is a loophole.

There's a question about what Boehner really wants relative to Nancy Pelosi's discharge petition plan. You have probably heard that Pelosi is looking to bring the Senate bill (which rescinds the Bush tax cuts for incomes above $250,000, and leaves the rest intact) to the floor under a discharge petition. She would need 218 signatures, and it might pass. And Boehner might actually want that, because in January, when the debt ceiling discussion again rears it's ugly head, a large part of the Democratic leverage is gone. Think about it, if nothing happens with the tax rates in December, come January, when everyone is paying more taxes, Congress will hear about it, and it will be a negotiating point when it comes to discussing the whole tax code, as well as the debt ceiling. And that's independent of the discussions related to sequestration, and the appropriations bills that aren't even on the radar yet, although they are historically the last thing accomplished in December. 

It's a lot to get one's head around. First, be aware that everyone who works for wages will see a 2% raise in his/her taxes in January. The 2% decrease in Social Security deductions is going away. No one has mentioned it, it's not on the table, and it's over. It will certainly be confusing to political non-combatants when they see a drop in their paychecks, and can't understand what it's about. It was always a temporary measure, and meant to only last one year, although it lasted two. But the big thing in January will be that people in the upper 2% are not affected by that 2%. First, it doesn't touch unearned income. like dividends, and never has. Second, Social Security wages are capped at a little over $100,000/year, so it's a much smaller percentage drop for those making above the cap. Finally, certain other incomes (like those of hedge fund managers) are excluded from the tax. Therefore, already the middle class is affected by rising taxes while the 2% are not. There will be more pressure brought to bear about income inequality and tax inequality ESPECIALLY if the Bush tax cuts expire on 31 December. Boehner may well be thinking that he'll pin the "blame" for the FICA raise on Obama and will talk again about "job creators"....

So what to do? We can't get into Boehner's brain (except to know it's hard-wired to crying and golf games). We can only work off what we know. We know we want the Bush tax cuts to expire on incomes above $250,000. We're clear on that. Whether that occurs before or after 31 December can affect negotiations, but we know it's an important step in righting the tax ship to a way where taxes are more fair. 

If you're a long-time DCW community member, you know what's coming next. CALL YOU REPS! Tell them you want the Bush tax cuts to expire for incomes about $250,000. Tell them you vote, and you'll hold them accountable in the next election. Follow-up with a letter to your local newspaper letting them know you contacted your Congressman/Senators and said x,y,z. If the local press receive enough letters, they'll print some of them, and believe me, your reps read them.

In case you don't have your reps on speed dial, you can find the numbers at the links below. Remember it's always better to call the DC office then the local office. 

House contact information here. (Use the box in the upper right of the screen.)
Senate contact information here. (Use the box in the upper right of the screen.)

Want to do more? Get your friends and family to call. Remember, pressure works! The more voices, the more chance for getting reps to vote in a way that is responsive to the will of the constituency.

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