Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner met up with GOP congressional leaders last week to talk specifics about what it's going to take to come to a deal to avert the fiscal cliff at the end of the month. But House Speaker John Boehner's wasn't impressed, channeling John McEnroe by declaring that Geithner simply could not be serious.
Boehner called the administration proposal that included $1.6 trillion in tax increases, $400 billion in unspecified tax cuts and a bevy of additional stimulus spending, “nonsense.”
Geithner was doing the "full Ginsberg" Sunday morning, appearing on all five of the Sunday morning talk-shows. Of course that didn't work out so well for the last member of President Obama's Cabinet to go that route, or have you somehow forgotten about Susan Rice's now infamous comments from September 16?
Geithner told CNN's Candy Crowley that "It's a very good plan and we think it's a good basis for these conversations,” on CNN's "State of the Union. “What we did is put forward a very comprehensive, very carefully designed mix of savings and tax rates to help us put us back on a path to stabilizing our debt, fixing our debt and living within our means.”
This may very well be the last time in a long time that we'll see Geithner on the Sunday morning talk circuit, as the Treasury Secretary is moving on to the private-sector shortly, where he may or may not cash in on Wall Street (Geithner actually has worked most of his career not cashing in working in government).
As everyone knows, Republicans have said they're willing to look at "raising revenues" (can't say the word 'taxes'!), but not in the fashion that Obama does. That would be by allowing tax rates on all but those making less than $250,000 to go up a few percentage points, to where they were when the economy boomed in the 1990's.
The GOP has discussed limiting deductions as a way to raise revenues. The problem with that is that capping the charitable deduction or the home mortgage deduction, or the deduction for paying for health care, are all extremely unpopular. On ABC's This Week, Geithner said that wasn't the way to go.
GEITHNER: Well, I think you're right to point out the essential problem in this, which is that if you try to limit deductions like you say with a $25,000 cap, what you do is you end up hitting millions and millions — actually 17 million middle-class Americans. A huge part of the revenue comes that basic fact, which we do not prefer to do. It completely eliminates the incentives for relatively wealthy Americans to give to charities. We don't think that makes sense. And if you protect charitable contributions, you lose a huge amount of additional revenue. So those proposals, they may be worth considering, but if you design them carefully, they don't raise anything close to the type of revenue you need to get us back to a fiscally responsible position.
This Tuesday marks four weeks since the election ended, leading CNN's Candy Crowley to question on State of the Union why the Obama administration has just now presented their first offer to Congressional Republicans. But if you listen to a lot of folks who've lived in Washington D.C. for awhile, the thought that Congress would come up with a solution before the clock is seriously ticking has always extremely remote.
There is three full weeks before Christmas Eve, which probably is the deadline we're talking about here. If both sides are still far apart in a week or ten days from now, then yes, perhaps folks should worry about not coming up with a deal (though some Democrats advocate for going over the cliff. That way tax rates go up for everybody, and then they can comeback in January and get Republicans to join them in giving a tax cut to those making less than $250,000 annually).
But it works better for all of the political chattering folks who fill up the screens of Sunday morning talk to emphasize that the hour is growing near. I mean, why else would you tune in, other than the fact that you watch this stuff every Sunday? (I'm very much including myself in this category).
Now it's true that this Congress, the 112th, has been infamously dysfunctional. The summer of 2011 brought the debt ceiling discussion breakdown, which ultimately led to the creation of the sequester. Those across-the-board spending cuts would begin early next year.
We'll all come back same time, same place, and see where we are. Then maybe we can begin freaking out.