Proposals Made on Background Are Not Real Proposals at All

| Tue Dec. 4, 2012 1:53 AM EST

I buried a point in an update to my earlier post about John Boehner's new deficit proposal, and I want to give it a short post of its own to make sure it gets a bit of attention. The point was this: every news account of Boehner's proposal says that it includes (a) an increase in the Medicare eligibility age, and (b) a change in the way inflation is calculated, which would reduce Social Security benefits. But neither of those things is in the letter he sent to President Obama. So where did they come from?

The answer, apparently, is from anonymous GOP aides on background. And if that's the case, it should have been clearly reported that way. Because that's not a proposal at all, it's a way of pretending to make a proposal that can be disavowed and denied at any time if it becomes inconvenient. If it were real, after all, Boehner would have put it in his letter. It's not as if he didn't have enough room.

And on a substantive note, if the inflation proposal is real, I hope that Obama rejects it unless it's matched at least dollar-for-dollar with a proposal to increase Social Security revenues. Raising the maximum taxable income so that it once again covers 90% of earnings would just about do it. Generally speaking, I don't mind making a deal on Social Security, but it needs to be a balanced deal that pairs up benefit cuts with tax increases. Under no circumstances should any Democrat accept a deal that includes only a benefit cut.

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