On Wednesday, Obama called on Congress to pass a bill to retain the Bush tax cuts for families earning less than $250,000. In the name of "balance," he asked Congress to pass a bill with tax increases but no spending cuts. Then he claimed that doing so would make it "a whole lot easier" to deal with deficit reduction later.
To avert the "fiscal cliff," Republicans might have to cave on the tax increase. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., suggested the GOP House get it over with pronto. That could be canny political advice.
But it cannot bode well for deficit reduction. We’ve seen how Congress cuts spending — by promising what it won’t deliver. The 1997 budget act promised a sustainable growth rate to curb runaway Medicare costs. Congress has voted to delay the mandated reduction in payments to doctors.
Without the "doc fix," Medicare would cut doctor payments by 27 percent — a situation, the Heritage Foundation warns, that could "make it unaffordable for many doctors to continue accepting Medicare patients" and leave millions of seniors without care.
Everyone in Washington knows that the next budget deal will paper over the "doc fix" and other promised deficit reducers. What Washington passes, Washington can erase.