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Don’t Go Wobbly

Dec 10, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 13 • By FRED BARNES
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* Medicare. Obama’s plan includes $400 billion in entitlement savings over the next decade. The cuts are unspecified, but Democrats always favor smaller payments to providers like doctors and hospitals. After campaigning against the president’s $700 billion cut in these payments to help finance Obamacare, Republicans can’t credibly flip now, nor should they. Republicans have embraced Medicare reform, not cuts. McConnell says a fiscal cliff agreement should include structural changes in Medicare such as a higher age for eligibility and “genuine means testing.” He’s right, though these would merely be a downpayment on full reform based on premium support.

To strengthen their hand, Republicans would be smart to stress two things. One is the Simpson-Bowles commission’s strategy for handling the debt and deficit crisis. The Obama-created commission said uncontrolled spending is the cause of the problem, that the best way to gain more revenue is through tax reform, and that any deal must be bipartisan. Republicans agree and should say so loudly. Obama doesn’t agree.

The other is the prospect of a recession. The fiscal cliff is really a tax cliff. Taxes would instantly soar by $400 billion on January 1 and, according to the CBO, would drive the economy back into recession. So might the tax increase of $1.6 trillion advocated by Obama, in addition to higher taxes to finance his health care law that begin next year. Surely the president understands this.

If he doesn’t and insists on something close to his plan​—​that’s when Republicans take a walk.

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