Listen to top Democrats and Republicans talk on camera, and it sounds like they could not be further apart on a year-end tax-and-spending deal – a down payment on a $4 trillion grand bargain.
But behind the scenes, top officials who have been involved in the talks for many months say the contours of a deal – including the size of tax hikes and spending cuts it will likely contain — are starting to take shape.
Cut through the fog, and here’s what to expect: Taxes will go up just shy of $1.2 trillion — the middle ground of what President Barack Obama wants and what Republicans say they could stomach. Entitlement programs, mainly Medicare, will be cut by no less than $400 billion – and perhaps a lot more, to get Republicans to swallow those tax hikes. There will be at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts and “war savings.” And any final deal will come not by a group effort but in a private deal between two men: Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). The two men had what one insider described as a short, curt conversation Wednesday night — but the private lines of communications remain very much open.
The tax hikes on the rich are immediate. The Medicare stuff is 10-20 years away, as far as Politico can tell. That right there should tell you who’s winning this fight (and that’s if you believe this particular crew of Village Idiots, which is dubious at best) but I’m sure there’s going to be a holiday rush on scourges and flensing knives for the folks on the left anyhow.
So before you reach for that HE SOLD US OUT special, remember it’s Politico, in the Billiards Room, trying to Win The Morning™, and try to keep the blood off the floor.