Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner appeared on several Sunday shows yesterday, and for the first time, made explicitly clear that higher rates on income above $250,000 is a precondition to any fiscal agreement.
"There's not going to be an agreement without rates going up," Geithner said, reinforcing the fact that the White House sees no reason to give up on this central tenet of President Obama's platform, which enjoys broad public support.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), of course, has a very different approach in mind. Here's what he had to say on "Fox News Sunday."
"Listen, what is this difference where the money comes from? We put $800 billion worth of revenue, which is what he's asking for, out of eliminating the top two tax rates. [...]
"We've put the revenue on the table. And, again a dozen different ways to get there without raising tax rates."
And this, in a nutshell, is why talks aren't going anywhere. The White House has a plan on the table, which includes $1.6 trillion in new revenue, relying largely on higher rates on income above $250,000. Congressional Republicans, by their own admission, have no plan, and a vague promise about being able to find $800 billion in new revenue without raising rates, by closing loopholes and ending some deductions.
For those who take arithmetic seriously, the GOP approach borders on laughable. Indeed, Republicans refuse to put pen to paper, responding to requests by effectively saying they have a secret plan to collect $800 billion in new revenue. How? Where? So far, Boehner & Co. simply won't to say. How reassuring.
Also note, as far as the White House is concerned, GOP leaders won't offer a detailed proposal because they can't -- there's simply no credible way to get $800 billion in new revenue through deductions and loopholes, without forcing the middle class to feel the pinch, which both sides say they will not do.
The political world seems to be marveling at the lack of progress in fiscal talks with deadlines looming, but until Republicans do their homework and present a counteroffer to the White House plan, nothing can happen.