Excerpt from article by EZRA KLEIN, Washington Post
The Senate already passed a bill letting the Bush tax cuts lapse for income over $250,000. That bill is very, very popular. The White House expects that if we go over the cliff, the House will have to pass that bill, too, and the president would have little choice but to sign it. That bill raises taxes by a bit more than $700 billion, which is less than the $1.6 trillion the White House wants. But that $700 billion, to the White House, is the baseline: If they get nothing else, they will certainly get that.
And that’s why Boehner’s offer of $800 billion doesn’t impress. The White House already has some $700 billion in the bank, as they see it. The reason to negotiate with Boehner is that an agreement with him could, in theory, push that number well above $1 trillion while stabilizing the debt and avoiding the economic pain of falling off the fiscal cliff. But there’s no reason to cut a deal with Boehner in which the White House gives up spending cuts in order to get a tax increase they can have anyway.
The talk in Washington now is about a “small deal.” That would likely include the Senate tax bill, some policy to turn off at least the defense side of the sequester and a handful of other policies to blunt or delay various parts of the fiscal cliff.
That’s not a very good deal for the short-term health of the economy. Depending on how much of the fiscal cliff gets delayed, we could tip into recession anyway. But it could lead, in the end, to much more revenue than a “big deal” now.
Here’s how it would go. Some time in the next month or so, the small deal would pass and the White House would pocket that $700-plus billion in tax revenue. They really would get that for free, just as the president told Boehner.
But pressure would quickly mount to strike a larger deal, both because there would be another fiscal cliff coming and because the debt ceiling would need to be raised. (The White House swears they won’t negotiate over the debt ceiling, but it’s not exactly clear what that will mean in practice.)
The White House would insist that the next deal includes a 1:1 ratio of tax increases — all of which could come through Republican-friendly tax reform — to spending cuts. So a subsequent deal that included $600 billion or $700 billion in spending cuts would also include $600 billion or $700 billion in tax increases, leading to total new revenue in the range of $1.2 trillion to $1.4 trillion.
There’s precedent for this. After the 2010 midterms, Republicans forced the passage of the Budget Control Act, which included more than a trillion dollars in spending cuts and no offsetting tax increases. They’ve subsequently refused to count those cuts toward any future deals. If the president, after winning the 2012 election, pocketed $700 billion in tax increases and insisted that revenue was unrelated to the next negotiation, he’d simply be following Boehner’s lead.[MORE]