Economic Outlook: Looking for splam

By ANTHONY HALL, United Press International  |  Nov. 14, 2012 at 8:59 AM
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Be careful what you ask for, because it might come true.

After the votes were counted on Nov. 6, it was clear there was no escaping the Obama juggernaut, as the rumble -- as opposed to the soft patter -- of support was impossible to ignore.

During an election campaign, each party can drown each other out with volume as best they can. After the votes are counted, victors always get a larger showing at their press events. So everyone can go back to disagreeing in civil tones again.

All this brings us to Nov. 7, when Republicans for the first time in memory began to concede that additional revenue was a possibility when it came to figuring out the next federal budget. First House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio used the "R" word. Then the former GOP vice president candidate, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, who just happens to head the House Budget Committee, gave way to the possibility that more revenue was an option.

Of course, what they are talking about cannot look like tax hikes and the sooner the "R" word is tucked away the better for everyone. (Only President Barack Obama is OK with the word, but that's the privilege of being on top. No more prevaricating about the bush.)

It is possible the missing negotiation for the next budget -- one of the most critical budget negotiations in U.S. history -- is a sidebar on what to call an increase in revenue. Words like "Sploosh" or "Splam," might work. President: "Hey, we need more splam." Republicans: "OK, let's get some."

That said, Obama, who was once happy with a plan to raise an additional $800 billion over 10 years is said have crossed out that number and -- elegant, skinny, half-empty champagne glasses still scattered about the Oval Office -- is preparing to ask for $1.6 trillion in additional revenue over 10 years.

Boehner, The Wall Street Journal reported, has not come up with a limit on what additional revenue might be acceptable, but he has said the increase would not be levied on the rich alone. He suggests the word revenue be replaced with the phrase "closing loopholes," and he is holding out for "structural changes to entitlement programs," as well.

So, let's call it closing loopholes. The wealthy certainly have more loopholes than those of modest or insufficient means. As long as it has a revenue target, who cares what they call it.

The dealing at this point is all about dignity. Republicans want to say "We didn't raise taxes. We held tough. And we're so clever, we saved Medicaid and Social Security at the same time."

Well, take what you can get. Republicans are seeking bragging rights on how they looked after the little guy. But Obama needs Republican votes. He doesn't need them to come to his birthday party.

"New revenue must be tied to genuine entitlement changes," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. said this week. "Republicans are offering bipartisan solutions and now it's the president's turn. He needs to bring his party to the table."

The devil is in the details, of course. If McConnell is dreaming that "genuine entitlement changes" means handing Medicare to the states and privatizing Social Security -- well, no one is that far into la-la land, are they?

If so, strap on your life preservers because fiscal cliff here we come. If not, there does seem to be reason for considerable hope here. Except one last thing. The president -- yes, the man who actually won on Nov. 6 -- needs to keep his dignity intact, as well.

In international markets Wednesday, the Nikkei 225 index in Japan was flat, adding 0.04 percent, while the Shanghai composite index in China gained 0.37 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong rose 1.2 percent, while the Sensex in India slipped 0.28 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia added 0.2 percent.

In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 index in Britain was up 0.12 percent, while the DAX 30 in Germany lost 0.33 percent. The CAC 40 in France shed 0.36 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.4 percent.

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