In much of the mainstream reporting on the fiscal cliff the same non-facts keep popping up. Maybe reporters are genuinely confused. Maybe not enough pundits have read Bob Woodward’s “The Price of Politics.” But here are 10 of the most common errors (or out and out distortions as some conservatives see it).
1. Republicans were opposed to revenue up through the election. Wrong. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) put $800 billion in new revenue on the table. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) offered new revenue in the supercommittee. The GOP, at least on Capitol Hill, didn’t change; the press is only now willing to admit the degree of Republican flexibility on taxes.
2. There isn’t enough money in tax expenditures to come up with a trillion or so in new revenue. Wrong. As the Wall Street Journal editorial board writes, “Reducing the annual deduction cap to $25,000 would raise an additional $1.286 trillion over 10 years. Lower the cap still further to $17,000, as Mitt Romney once suggested during the campaign, and the revenue increase soars to $1.747 trillion by 2022.” The Simpson-Bowles debt-reduction commission found $1.1 trillion in revenue from base broadeners.
3. President Obama just wants to return to the Bill Clinton-era tax rate s. Wrong. With the Obamacare tax on and the phaseout of the personal exemption, the top marginal rate would not be 39.6 percent (the Clinton top rate) but at least 44.8 percent.
4. Defense spending previously has been spared. Wrong. As Robert Kagan and others have pointed out, defense spending is about the only place Obama really has cut spending. Former defense secretary Robert Gates offered up $78 billion in defense cuts, only to see the president offer up $487 billion more in cuts. That is all before we got to the defense sequestration.
5. Boehner is at beck and call of the hard right. Wrong. He was just reelected speaker by unanimous voice vote. He has put the grand bargain, including $800 billion in revenue, back on the table. Certainly, there are those out there in the GOP echo chamber who would like conservatives in the House to oust Boehner or mess up any potential deal. But the actual Republican House caucus for now remains strongly in Boehner's corner.
6. Sequestration cuts to defense can’t be made up elsewhere. Wrong. In fact, in the 2011 grand-bargain talks, VP Joe Biden oversaw constructive discussion in which both sides essential signed off on well over a trillion in new cuts. That’s much more than is needed to replace the defense cuts.
7. There isn’t time to do a deal. Wrong. The president and Congress can agree to a general framework for a deal, extend the Bush tax cuts for, say six months, and halt the sequestration cuts until a complete package can be negotiated and voted upon.
Frankly, a grand bargain is a matter of will and reality. If lawmakers need to behave responsibly it sure would help if the media did as well, merely by getting the facts straight. You have to wonder why they persist in these errors, all of which, wouldn’t you know it, assist Obama in forcing a tax-rate hike on the rich.