Republicans Getting Cold Feet on Entitlement Reform

| Thu Nov. 29, 2012 11:02 AM EST

This cracks me up. We all know that in the negotiations over the fiscal cliff, Democrats want some tax hikes and Republicans want some entitlement cuts. But what cuts do Republicans want?

A top Democratic official said talks have stalled on this question since Obama and congressional leaders had their friendly-looking post-election session at the White House. “Republicans want the president to own the whole offer upfront, on both the entitlement and the revenue side, and that’s not going to happen because the president is not going to negotiate with himself,” the official said. “There’s a standoff, and the staff hasn’t gotten anywhere. Rob Nabors [the White House negotiator], has been saying: ‘This is what we want on revenues on the down payment. What’s you guys’ ask on the entitlement side?’ And they keep looking back at us and saying: ‘We want you to come up with that and pitch us.’ That’s not going to happen.”

Well, of course they want the president to make proposals for both sides. Then they can reluctantly agree, and in 2014 run about a billion dollars worth of ads saying that Democrats raised your taxes and cut your Social Security.

This, of course, is yet more evidence that Republicans know perfectly well that cutting entitlements is unpopular. For some reason, however, they've lashed themselves to this particular mast, and now they have to figure out a way to wriggle out from beneath it. Their cunning plan is to make Democrats responsible for all the unpopular proposals and then paint themselves as the protectors of the middle class. But no matter what you think of Obama's negotiating skills, no one's a big enough idiot to agree to that.

Here in the real world, it's time for Republicans to put their cards on the table. You want to cut granny's Medicare? Let's hear your plans. If you want to cut the deficit in the medium term, that also means cutting benefits in the medium term, and that in turn means cutting benefits for current retirees. You can't use the old wheeze about leaving everything alone for everyone over 55.

The blowhard axis of the GOP has been complaining for weeks that Republicans would have won the election if only they'd stuck to Paul Ryan's guns on this stuff instead of muzzling him. Well, now they have a chance to find out. It's time to step up to the plate.

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