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Ezra Klein Gets One Wrong: He Thinks What We Have Is a Failure to Communicate

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It isn't.

Republicans just don't want to hand Obama anything the press will perceive as a victory. Since anything other than complete surrender to the Republicans will be scored as a victory for bipartisan deal-making Obama, whatever concessions Obama offers will not be enough.

Failing to understand the White House negotiating position is not a bug, but a feature for them.

Ezra Klein:

What we have here is a failure to communicate: [S]ome of the gridlock in Washington is simply the result of poor information. Would it matter, one reporter asked the veteran [Republican] legislator, if the president were to put chained-CPI — a policy that reconfigures the way the government measures inflation and thus slows the growth of Social Security benefits — on the table? “Absolutely,” the legislator said. “That’s serious.” Another reporter jumped in. “But it is on the table! They tell us three times a day that they want to do chained-CPI.”

“Who wants to do it?” said the legislator.

“The president,” replied the reporter.

“I’d love to see it,” laughed the legislator.

You can see it. If you go to WhiteHouse.gov, the first thing you’ll see is an invitation to read the president’s plan to replace the sequester. That plan is only a page. “Savings from Superlative CPI” — another way of saying chained-CPI (consumer price index) — is one of the items in bold type. It saves $130 billion over the next decade, mostly by cutting Social Security benefits. And yet there are key Republican legislators — the very Republicans who say they want to strike a deal, and who the White House will need if it’s going to get a deal — who don’t know the president is even willing to consider it.

Now, one possibility is the legislator was simply lying. But I doubt it. Politicians don’t like to make themselves look uninformed in rooms full of reporters, and such cynical messaging would be out of character for this particular member of Congress. What we have here, rather, is a failure to communicate.

Chained-CPI isn’t the only policy concession the White House has made that seems to have escaped the notice of its negotiating partners…. McConnell… calls for “serious means-testing for high-income people” on Medicare…. Graham… meant "rraising the Medicare eligibility age, means-testing entitlements, etc."… But on page 34 of the White House’s most recent budget, President Obama proposes to do exactly that. Medicare, it’s important to note, is already a partially means-tested program, with richer seniors — about 5 percent of them — paying income-related premiums for their hospital and drug insurance. Obama would increase those premiums by 15 percent, and he’d freeze the threshold such that, over the next decade or two, 25 percent of seniors were paying part of the cost of their coverage….

That’s not to say that the White House necessarily goes as far as all Republicans would like…. But what shouldn’t be holding an agreement up is that top Republicans simply don’t know the compromises the White House is willing to make on Medicare and Social Security.

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