Negotiating with House Republicans isn’t just difficult because they refuse to compromise; it’s also because they don’t even appreciate the point of the exercise. Told, for example, that failure on the debt ceiling would lead to a disaster, the House GOP simply doesn’t believe the evidence.
It’s challenging enough trying to craft an agreement when the parties have the same goal. But what happens when the crew of the Titanic says, “The captain’s wrong; icebergs are no big deal”?
The trick is finding someone the crazies find credible. (thanks to T.K.)
Republican leaders in the House have begun to prepare their troops for politically painful votes to raise the nation’s debt limit, offering warnings and concessions to move the hard-line majority toward a compromise that would avert a federal default. […]
At a closed-door meeting Friday morning, GOP leaders turned to their most trusted budget expert, Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, to explain to rank-and-file members what many others have come to understand: A fiscal meltdown could occur if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling. […]
The warnings appeared to have softened the views of at least some House members who, until now, were inclined to dismiss statements by administration officials, business leaders and outside economists that the economic impact would be dire if the federal government were suddenly unable to pay its bills. [emphasis added]
Right-wing freshman Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) said he found the presentation, particularly the parts about skyrocketing interest rates, “sobering.”
Oh, now it’s “sobering”? We’re 17 days before the drop-dead crisis deadline, and now it’s dawning on some House Republicans that they’re not only playing with matches, but may actually torch the entire economy?
At this point, of course, I’ll take progress wherever I can find it. If some of the House GOP’s madness is “softening,” maybe they’ll be slightly more inclined to be responsible.
But I can’t help but find it interesting the limited pool of individuals Republicans are willing to listen to. The Treasury tells the House GOP caucus members they have to raise the debt ceiling, and Republicans don’t care. The Federal Reserve tells them, and they still don’t care. House Speaker John Boehner tells them, and that doesn’t work, either. Business leaders, governors, and economists tell them, and Republicans ignore all of them.
But Paul Ryan warns of a meltdown and all of a sudden, the House GOP is willing to pay attention.
I guess we should be thankful the radical House Budget Committee chairman is only wrong 90% of the time, and not 100%.
By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly-Political Animal, July 16, 2011
Republicans would like you to believe that our deficit problem is primarily a spending problem and that responsibility for that problematic spending is primarily a Democratic responsibility. But the second claim is as misleading as the first. Republicans have also been known to promote wasteful government spending, particularly when it goes towards an industry with which they happen to be cozy. For a vivid illustration of this, look no further than a new Politico article about House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and his position on a key deficit reduction proposal.
The proposal in question would lower the cost of what the federal government currently pays to provide low-income seniors with prescription drugs. For years, the government purchased drugs for these seniors directly through Medicaid, taking advantage of the low prices drug companies must, by law, provide when selling drugs for the people in that program. But that changed in 2006, with the creation of Medicare drug benefit. At that point, the government delegated the purchasing of drugs for low-income seniors to private firms. And the firms haven’t been able to negotiate equally deep discounts, partly because of restrictions on their ability to limit drug availability.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, restoring the “Medicaid discount” for low-income seniors could save more than $100 billion over the course of a decade, depending on the structure of the proposal. And, at one point, many health care reformers had hoped to include that proposal as part of what became the Affordable Care Act. The administration and leaders of the Senate Finance Committee agreed not to include the proposal in the final legislation, as part of their infamous deal with the drug industry lobby. But that was a one-time deal, at least in theory, and congressional negotiators are looking seriously at enacting the proposal now.
The problem is lawmakers like Cantor, who oppose the idea. According to the Politico story, written by Matt Dobias, Cantor is making the same argument that the drug industry lobby does: That the proposal would amount to a form of government price controls, retarding economic growth and discouraging innovation.
The latter point is highly dubious: The reduction would bring reimbursement levels for these drugs very close to what they were a few years ago. Many experts, including the CBO, think the likely impact on research and development would be negligible. (Harvard economists Richard Frank and Joseph Newhouse addressed this issue at some length in Health Affairs a few years ago.)
As for the former suggestion, it’s true that any net reduction in government spending could reduce economic growth, at least at this particular moment. That’s why it’s not a good idea to be madly slashing government spending right now — and why, perhaps, congressional negotiators should delay implementation of this cut, like the others, so that it would take effect after the economy has more fully recovered.
But Cantor’s anxiety over the economic ramifications of spending cuts seems strangely selective. He hasn’t raised similar concerns about cuts to food stamps, Medicaid, and similar programs that would likely have a more devastating impact, both on the economy as a whole and the people who depend upon them for support.
Then again, food stamp recipients didn’t donate $168,000 to Cantor’s reelection campaign in the last cycle. The drug industry did.
By: Jonathan Cohn, The New Republic, July 15, 2011