House Speaker John Boehner predictably rejected the Democrats’ $3 trillion proposal to reduce the deficit, because it included tax increases. As a result, there are two additional options: a smaller, all-cuts proposal along the lines of what Republicans have offered, or gridlock, and a move into next year with the trigger of automatic, across-the-board cuts to defense, discretionary spending and Medicare providers slated to start in 2013. Boehner said yesterday that the nation cannot abide by the latter, either.

Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that automatic across-the-board cuts in spending would be an unacceptable outcome out of the deficit-slashing supercommittee.

The so-called trigger, created as part of the debt ceiling hike earlier this year, would cut from defense and social programs if the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction falls short of reaching $1.2 trillion in cuts from the federal deficit.

Asked Thursday if the trigger would be acceptable in any form, Boehner said, “No, I think it’s important for the supercommittee to meet its goals.”

So let’s get what Boehner is saying here. He is stating that spending cuts to a variety of programs is unacceptable. For once, we agree!

This is setting up pretty much as expected. Republicans hate the trigger, and won’t increase taxes. Democrats are happy to slash and burn if there’s a “grand bargain,” but may be wary of an all-cuts solution. And a significant chunk of Democrats, as evidenced by Rep. Adam Smith’s speech at the American Enterprise Institute yesterday, don’t want any part of that trigger either. So at some point in 2012, the trigger will get dissolved in some fashion.

But what the last week or so has shown, as the Catfood Commission II nears its deadline, is that it’s impossible, given the prejudices of the DC establishment, to pull off a “pivot to jobs” for very long. Thanks to Occupy Wall Street, the conversation has changed in Washington somewhat, but now I’m seeing all kinds of stories about cuts to the social safety net and the same arguments over taxes and spending that characterized the debt limit debate. It’s almost a total replay, complete with the bipartisan wank-a-thons led by Heath Shuler demanding $4 trillion in completely unspecified cuts (they were demanding $4 trillion in cuts this summer, too, and even though nearly $1 trillion have already been implemented through a spending cap, the number has stayed the same). Washington just can’t help itself but to go back to the same conversation that eroded the country’s faith in government. And the mechanism of the Catfood Commission II is a large part of that.

So this is more evidence as to why Americans are out in the streets in force.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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