As Bush Signals A Willingness To Budge On Private Accounts, Events May Make It Moot
On the same day that Bush’s tax reform advisory committee said it would present the Treasury Department with at least two options for tax reform this year, creating another headache for GOP incumbents in the 2006 midterms (see the public feelings on tax fairness in the post below), the Bush White House signaled for the first time that Bush may be open to private accounts as an add-on, rather than as a replacement for Social Security benefits.
Yes, it may be a sign that the Bush White House sees that the privatization battle has cost them the chance to do any of their major domestic initiatives in the second term, and it may be a tactical retreat to achieve longer term but less ambitious gains. Or, considering that we’re talking about Rove here, it could be just another faint to drag Democrats into wide-ranging negotiations on more than just Social Security, now to also include tax “reform”, which Bush has required to be revenue neutral, thereby ensuring that wage earners will absorb more of a burden so that the wealthy get another tax shift.
And I have no comfort at seeing former DLC stalwart former Senator John Breaux as the point man on this Bush tax reform commission, given that Breaux has never met a corporate tax break that he didn’t like. But if Breaux can get Bush off his insistence that the new tax package be revenue neutral, and if the package pushes more of the tax burden away from wage earners and back onto corporations and the wealthy, and if Bush is willing to accept private accounts as add-ons, then I say, "let’s talk."
But none of this will happen, for several reasons. First, Bush will never agree to such a formulation. Second, Bill Frist is about to stupidly unleash the nuclear option. And from that point on, the Senate will grind to a halt, as Frist becomes nothing more than a worthless mullah in the American Taliban.
Third, the House Republicans have tied their asses to the elephant in the room who they don’t want to take on, and are willing to let the ethics issue take them down while it poisons the House.
Fourth, the GOP itself isn’t even speaking from the same playbook on Bush’s budget cuts, so there will need to be more horse-trading within the GOP before anyone can talk about a grand deal.