Speaker of the House John Boehner will speak in front of representatives of the financial industry tonight in New York. What will the Speaker say about the national debt and the economy tonight?
The Washington Post says that Boehner is "set to deliver a sermon of fiscal austerity and federal debt Monday evening before the titans of the nation's financial industry." The article suggests that the speech will primarily outline Boehner's demands at the negotiating table with the group of senators, representatives, and executive officials working on deficit issues.
According to The New York Times, though, Boehner's speech will focus primarily on the debt ceiling, and suggest that everything is on the table except raising taxes. It will insist that action on the debt ceiling will require corresponding spending cuts. This doesn't seem like the most advantageous position. Republicans know that an outright refusal to raise the debt ceiling would be politically risky. Further, there is broad momentum for raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Boehner's insistence that everything is on the table except raising taxes is not actually a position of compromise. For Republicans, almost everything is on the table for spending cuts in the first place.
We think that the smart thing to do politically would be to take the initiative. President Obama did this with his speech at George Washington University several weeks ago, in which he called for a bipartisan working group under Vice President Biden and changed the debate by framing the issue as Democrats on the side of cutting the deficit by taking moderate spending cuts and not taking increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans off the table. Boehner would want to set out a bold alternative that changes the debate in the same way. It seems clear that as long as the nation is talking about the deficit in terms of whether taxing the rich is reasonable, the Republicans are at a disadvantage. Boehner could outline a separate proposal that shows that Republicans can cut the budget without raising taxes. Boehner could borrow the Senate Gang of Six's emphasis on reforming the tax code instead of outright raising taxes as a starting point.