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My "Fiscal Fitness" column from this morning's Roll Call explains how the fiscal cliff might be reported by Variety if it were an entertainment story. Then again, so far, hasn't it been mostly entertainment?
Some Are Miffed the Cliff Tiff Not Diff
The headline above is how Variety, the Hollywood news magazine that uses its own insider lingo — what it calls “slanguage” — might describe what’s currently happening with the fiscal cliff.
Whatever Congress and the White House do in the next couple of weeks will reinforce the case for tax reform. The seeming sanctification of low tax rates that occurred with the Tax Reform Act of 1986 has not meant keeping top tax rates low; it has meant only the death of honesty in talking about rates. The result is a patch work of hidden rates and additional wage taxes that is likely to continue.
There's really not much new to say about the fiscal cliff except that, as of today, we're now three weeks away from it happening. There's especially not much new to say when the only news is that a meeting took place at the White House over the weekend between the president and speaker and the big statement was that the lines of communication remain open. No additional meetings have been scheduled.
A deal is still possible, of course, although the grand bargain/big deal/legacy agreement that never was very likely to begin with now appears to be all-but-impossible to achieve. Even if Obama and Boehner could agree on something like that, the chances of translating it into legislation and getting enough votes to pass it in the House and Senate before the January 1-2 fiscal cliff deadlines are very, very small.
For those of you who can't sleep late on Sunday, I'll be on CSPAN's Washington Journal from 745 to 845 am EST talking and answering questions about...what else?...the fiscal cliff.
I'll be on with former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin. If you have an especially tough question, make sure you direct it at him.
I hate to say I told you so, but...
I predicted as far back as May (here, here and especially here) that House Speaker John Boehner's reelection as speaker could be in trouble if it looked to the tea party wing of the Republican Party that he was capitulating to the White House on taxes during the fiscal cliff negotiations.
I was called delusional (or worse) by some for saying that.
My column from today's Roll Call points out that you can't, as House Speaker Boehner wants us to believe, say the fiscal cliff discussions have stalled because they haven't really even started yet. So far, the only thing that's happened is the federal budget equivalent of two alpha males pounding their chests in front of the other.
Fiscal Cliff Talks Aren't at a Standstill; They Haven't Started
After all of the lengthy, difficult and failed budget negotiations over the past few years, did anyone really think dealing with the fiscal cliff was going to be fast, easy and painless?
GAO has been doing this report since 1992.
Very simple: Definitely worth taking a look. You can find it here.
Excellent work by Susan Irving and the team at GAO.
The offer made yesterday by House Republicans to the White House to avoid the fiscal cliff got all the headlines, but there were two reasons why it wasn't the most important fiscal cliff-related story of the day.
First, it wasn't really a serious offer. In spite of the fact that the letter to the White House says the House GOP wasn't going to respond in kind to what it considered a totally unlikely-to-ever-be-acceptable opening offer from Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner last week, that's exactly what it did. That made it easy for the White House to quickly dismiss it and leave the fiscal cliff negotiations where the were when the day began: not started.
I first posted about the budget stupidity of the dollar coin more than two years ago.
At that time I stipulated that, in theory, a dollar coin makes a great deal of budget sense because it costs more to keep a dollar bill in circulation over a long period of time than it does to have a coin. Therefore, as the Government Accountability Office has said on many different occasions, the federal government could spend less by switching.
But...as I also said two years ago...the key phrase is "in theory." The savings only occur if dollar coins replace rather than supplement the dollar bill, that is, if consumers do something they've absolutely shown no inclination to do by not using bills, and if retail businesses are willing to pay the higher costs to them of using coins.