Last week, the Obama administration presented congressional Republicans with a formal offer in their ongoing fiscal talks, and challenged GOP leaders to come up with a plan of their own. Today, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the House Republican leadership sent a letter to the White House that's been described as a "counteroffer," but that's not quite correct.
House Speaker John Boehner on Monday sent a counter offer to President Obama to avoid the looming fiscal cliff that raises $800 billion without increasing tax raise tax rates on top earners and makes $1.4 trillion in cuts and reforms to entitlement and discretionary spending programs.
Boehner's offer does not outline how to deal with a country fast approaching its debt limit and sequestrations' across-the-board spending cuts.
So, what's the pitch? Under this proposal, Republicans would keep all of the Bush-era tax rates, but accept $800 billion in new revenue. How? Through "through pro-growth tax reform that closes special-interest loopholes and deductions while lowering rates."
From there, the GOP leaders want to cut $600 billion from Medicare and Medicaid; cut $300 billion from mandatory programs; cut $200 billion by changing the consumer price index; and then cut another $300 billion in further discretionary spending.
To call this a "counteroffer" is to strip the word of meaning. Under the GOP plan, Republicans get the more than $1 trillion in spending cuts Obama already gave them; Republicans get the entitlement cuts they want; Republicans get hundreds of billions of dollars in additional cuts to programs they haven't identified; and Republicans get all of the Bush-era tax rates they've prioritized.
This isn't a "counteroffer"; it's a Christmas wish list written by kids without access to calculators.
But Democrats would get $800 billion in new revenue, right? Well, no, probably not -- Boehner says he can get the money by closing "loopholes and deductions," but we know that's not true. Either GOP officials would start forcing the middle class to feel the pinch, or they'd fall far short of $800 billion.
What's more, notice that the Republicans' letter doesn't actually include real details. Sure, some numbers are thrown around, but I can just as easily write a letter to the Speaker promising to raise $18 gajillion by selling unicorns to Bigfoot -- the numbers don't mean anything unless they're backed up by substantive policies.
Postscript: In case you were wondering -- I was -- the letter makes no reference to GOP leaders' willingness to consider extending unemployment aid, extending the payroll tax break, raising the debt ceiling, or investing so much as a penny in economic growth policies.
One should generally be reluctant to make broad assumptions, but I suspect the Republicans' silence on these issues suggests they're not open to the possibility.