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Deja vu all over again on debt talks

at 03:02 PM ET, 09/15/2011

House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) made abundantly clear in a speech today that tax increases should be off the table as the so-called “supercommittee” — their capes are still on order — begins its negotiations about bringing down the nation’s debt.


(House Speaker John Boehner ruled out tax increases to close the nation’s debt in a speech on Thursday.)
“When it comes to producing savings to reach its $1.5 trillion deficit reduction target, the Joint Select Committee has only one option: spending cuts and entitlement reform,”said Boehner. (Isn’t that two options?)

Boehner’s pledge comes just days after a rough sketch of President Obama’s own deficit reduction plan, which will be formally unveiled next Monday, emerged with a series of tax increases on corporations and wealthy individuals.

So that’s where we are.Call it irresistible force meets immoveable object. Or, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The two positions stakes out by Boehner and the White House over the past week are nearly identical to the parameters of the protracted fight over whether or not to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.

That battle, which paralyzed official Washington for months, was widely derided by participants on both sides as a showcase of the worst of politics.

And, according to an analysis of polling data by GOP pollster Bill McInturff, the American people agreed.

“The debt ceiling negotiation is an extremely significant event that is profoundly and sharply reshaping views of the economy and the federal government,” concluded McInturff. “It has led to a scary erosion in confidence in both, at a time when this steep drop in confidence can be least afforded.”

McInturff’s broad point is that an already anxious American public was thrown into a near-panic state by the nastiness of the process fight that played out in Washington. That raised level of nervousness led to a conclusion that politicians (all of them) don’t a) have any solutions or b) care all that much about the average person.

How is Washington reacting to this political convulsion? By re-starting the same fight, of course!

It’s worth noting that Boehner’s speech today and Obama’s expected proposal on Monday are early skirmishes aimed at shaping the work of the supercommittee, which has only just begun conversations about the best, next steps forward.

What the two leaders say today may well be very different from what they say as the Nov. 23 deadline for a vote by the supercommittee on a deficit reduction plan approaches.

But, the Boehner and Obama back and forth also affirms the fundamental differences between the two parties when it comes to reducing the nation’s debt and makes clear that the negative political impact from the debt ceiling debacle has done little to adjust either side’s calculations.

The game of political chicken, then, begins again. Politicians on both sides would be wise to heed the warning offered by McInturff: “This type of deep voter anger, unease, and economic pessimism leads to unstable and unpredictable political outcomes.”

Or, put another way: 2012 could be a wild year politically.

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