John Boehner Would Like to Have an “Adult Conversation” With America About Entitlements Just So Long As That Conversation Contains No Solutions

The GOP’s House Minority Leader, John Boehner, appeared opposite Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday over the weekend and doubled down on last week’s pledge to avoid talking about any sort of actual policy proposal to deal with the unsustainable growth of entitlement spending. He said he wants to have an “adult conversation” about runaway entitlements, but apparently that doesn’t include any discussion whatsoever of what he and his party propose to do about some of the biggest drivers of federal spending and deficits. Here’s the key exchange:

WALLACE: But forgive me, sir. I mean, isn't the right time to have the adult conversation now before the election when you have this document? Why not make a single proposal to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid?

BOEHNER: Chris, this is what happens here in Washington. When you start down that path, you just invite all kinds of problems. I know. I've been there. I think we need to do this in a more systemic way and have this conversation first. Let's not get to the potential solutions. Let's make sure Americans understand how big the problem is. Then we can begin to talk about possible solutions and then work ourselves into those solutions that are doable.

The “adult conversation” line is really laying it on thick considering that what he’s actually demonstrating is that, at best, the GOP wants to baby voters through the basics of the entitlement situation before actually broaching the topic of specific policy changes.

Obviously many Republicans are afraid of political blowback from any proposal that could be portrayed as a cut to Medicare or Social Security, both of which have large constituencies that vote consistently. And to some extent that’s a legitimate fear, at least from a purely political standpoint; after all, one of the most effective (if frustrating) Republican attacks on the new health care law was that it cuts Medicare. But this fear fails to realize that proposals to control spending on entitlement programs are in fact proposals to preserve and strengthen those programs. Paul Ryan’s Roadmap, whatever its flaws, wouldn’t change Medicare a bit for anyone who is within 10 years of entering the program, and, perhaps with some adjustments, would at least set the program (as well at the federal budget) on a rough path to long-term sustainability.

In a way, though, Boehner is correct that “this is what happens here in Washington”: Voters become angry about government debt and spending. And so they turn to the GOP, which runs on a loud but vague campaign to cut spending and then, once in power, follows through by cutting taxes but not spending, thereby making the problem worse.

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  • Rich||

    The GOP can yet snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

  • ||

    If the GOP takes the House in November, it won't be because of the Republicans. It will be because of the Tea Party.

    John Boehner represents the Republicans in that equation, not the Tea Party. The Tea Party is a threat to John Boehner--their victory will represent a repudiation of GOP leaders like John Boehner, not a victory for them.

    John Boehner voted for TARP. After November, when John Boehner's warming up to have his adult conversation with the American people about entitlements?

    I hope the newly elected representatives of the Tea Party have an adult conversation with John Boehner about his vote for TARP--and how he's unfit to be the leader of a Tea Party invigorated majority in the House.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    If the GOP takes the House in November, it won't be because of the Republicans. It will be because of the Tea Party Democrats have royally fucked things up and people feel the unending need to punish one fucktard and replacing it with yet another fucktard who will, in turn, do the same fucking thing.

    FIFY

  • prolefeed||

    The “adult conversation” line is really laying it on thick

    Nah, he's saying he's planning on fucking us over. Sounds pretty "adult" to me, as in the XXX kind.

  • ||

    And this is why republicans also suck. Promise change and continue status quo... wait a bit, doens't that fit another party?

  • Old Mexican||

    Let's not get to the potential solutions.

    "Let's focus instead on getting back the House and Senate by whatever means, so that we can shaft the public one more time, just like we did after we sold them the 'Contract With America' without achieving even half of what we promised to them in WRITTING."

  • prolefeed||

    Not sure if the "WRITTING" was meant to be ironic.

  • Old Mexican||

    Nah. Typos are meant to make people think...

  • ||

    OM'z Corollary to RC'z Law.

  • ||

    Let's make sure Americans understand how big the problem is.

    This is a phenomenal idea. Too bad no one's been actually doing it. I've had discussions with a number of people that think that the expiring tax cuts will make up most/all/more than all of the deficit. The entirety of it (letting the whole thing expire, not just the part that Obama wants to let expire) accounts for less than 3% of the current deficit.

  • Colonel Jessup||

    Let's make sure Americans understand how big the problem is.

    They can't handle the truth!

  • ||

    30%. Damn typo.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    I'm kind of curious as to where those 30% assumptions are coming from, as well--is it from the number of tax filers last year? Because I'm willing to bet there aren't as many now, at the same income level, as there were last January. 30% might be pretty damn optimistic.

  • ||

    There is nothing that helps to expand gubermint like not paying for it. If the citizenry was actually paying the cost so that they could see how "free" all the gubermint they were getting was, we would have a lot less.

    But as deficits grow, and as Rogoff has shown, we will be paying for it with reduced output. Just like with the education debate, endless yammering, misdiagnosed problems, ineffective solutions.
    With apologies to lesbians, Republicans can reduce a deficit as well as a fish can ride a bicycle.

  • Robert||

    If they can't, nobody can.

  • ||

    It's no surprise that the GOP is doing this, but man, if they fuck this up, they blow our best chance at gridlock for a long time.

    I actually want them to win so that we'll get gridlock, and it won't surprise me at all if they fuck us by fucking themselves.

  • Jeb||

    Fuck troll is fucked.

  • cynical||

    FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU

  • ||

    Oh, passive aggressive troll, you so passive aggressive.

  • Tony||

    So the status quo is the best possible world? Even letting the Bush tax cuts expire? Gridlock means we still get a lot of policies. Sucks to be so jaded that you think that's the best we can do.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Suderman, you win the alt-text cup for the day.

  • ||

    Mooo-vies!

  • Tim||

    Pity Boehner: that tanning tax has hit him especially hard.

  • ||

    Yes. And we need to sit down with him and have an adult conversation about keeping his fucking job.

  • ||

    It's election year, so they don't want to give any solutions. Yet, they want to complain about the Ds pushing the tax cuts until after the election. It's the same tactic for the same reason. If the people won't like it, do after they vote.

  • wingnutx||

    Weigel threadjack, from the corrections page at SLATE:

    In a Sept. 15 "Politics," David Weigel misspelled the names of former Colorado gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis, former Illinois gubernatorial candidate Adam Andrzejewski, Michigan congressional candidate Dan Benishek, and New York congressional candidate Nan Hayworth. The article misidentified South Carolina congressional candidate Paul Thurmond. It listed Hayworth and Rep. Bob Inglis of South Carolina as Tea Party picks when they should have been listed as establishment picks. And it listed Neil DiCarlo and Trey Gowdy as establishment picks when they should have been listed as Tea Party picks.

    How you let this prize get away I'll never know.

  • Apologetic California||

    BWAHHAHAHA

  • Weigal||

    RATFUCKERS!!!!!1!!!!

  • DBN||

    In his defense, Slate doesn't actually appear to have an editor.

  • ||

    ""once in power, follows through by cutting taxes but not spending, thereby making the problem worse.""

    But they know one day the Ds will be back in power and they can blame it on them.

  • Great Work, Weigel||

    Other Than That, the Story Was Accurate
    "In a Sept. 15 'Politics,' David Weigel misspelled the names of former Colorado gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis, former Illinois gubernatorial candidate Adam Andrzejewski, Michigan congressional candidate Dan Benishek, and New York congressional candidate Nan Hayworth. The article misidentified South Carolina congressional candidate Paul Thurmond. It listed Hayworth and Rep. Bob Inglis of South Carolina as Tea Party picks when they should have been listed as establishment picks. And it listed Neil DiCarlo and Trey Gowdy as establishment picks when they should have been listed as Tea Party picks."--correction, Slate.com, Sept. 24

    http://www.slate.com/id/2268317/

  • Great Work, Weigel||

    Missed it by that much!

  • Johnny Longtorso||

    Almost as accurate as his opinion of Obama.

  • ||

    Dammit, I ran over here just to post that.

  • James Taranto||

    You guys are fags.

  • zoltan||

    Shut it, guido.

  • Alice||

    In an Idiocracy, politicians cannot tell the voters what needs to be done. Not only will the voters not agree, but they will vote them out of office at the first opportunity.

    Tell voters how bad the problem is first? A very good idea, except the voters aren't listening. They'll hate you for interrupting their football, soap operas, and internet porn.

    No wonder libertarians don't get elected! They haven't the foggiest idea about the human nature of voters in an Idiocracy.

  • ||

    But what about the fry shortage? And the garbage avalanches? And the ecomony?

  • Nephilium||

    I know! Let's put toilet water on 'em!

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    I ain't never seen a plant growin' outta no toilet!

  • ||

    But the burrito wrapping shortage was the result of 8 years of failed ecernomicanal pollen seeds.

  • cynical||

    "In an Idiocracy, politicians cannot tell the voters what needs to be done."

    In an Idiocracy, politicians would be too fucktarded to know what needs to be done, so it wouldn't really matter.

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    Well that's true in any form of government.

  • Ayn_Randian||

    Anyone referencing "Idiocracy" should receive a hot iron enema.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    I'm presuming that when one is diagnosed with cancer there is a certain amount of framing of the issue that takes place and the conversation doesn't start with "we're going to cut out your lung."

    That doesn't mean that Boehner and the most of the rest of the Rs aren't disingenuous fucks but starting with "women and children first," however necessary that solution may ultimately be, is only going to give the Ds a chance to say snipe at the solution while not being honest that water is already pouring over the "water tight" bulkheads to the detriment of every-damned-body.

    Also, I think that Fair Warning was a much better CD than Women and Children First but we aren't getting fair warning, either.

  • ||

    But this fear fails to realize that proposals to control spending on entitlement programs are in fact proposals to preserve and strengthen those programs.

    That (correct) understanding comes from careful and subtle, dispassionate analysis of the situation.

    What would follow a GOP statement that they wanted to cut entitlements would not be a careful, subtle, dispassionate analysis. It would be a Democrat and state-aligned media feeding frenzy of "push granny off the cliff" commercials, ridiculous AP "fact checks" based on dubious assumptions of what the facts are, etc.

  • ||

    It's becoming clearer why republican strategists don't think the election will be as easy as many think.

  • filbert||

    All Boehner was doing here is just stealing Paul Ryan's line about having an adult conversation (see his CNN standup interview alongside Debbie Wasserman Schultz for the amusing context, here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8T_m3ERkH8
    ).

    Ryan's "Roadmap" is nowhere near perfect, but it IS an attempt at a solution. Or as close to it as we're likely to see any Congresscritter come before we throw the lot of them out and get responsible . . . *snort* ADULTS in Congress . . .

  • ||

    He didn't "steal" it from Ryan. The "adult conversation" line has been a Republican talking point for a couple of weeks now. You just happened to see that Ryan clip before you saw any of the rest.

  • filbert||

    OK. But it's a *good* talking point.

    One that Republicans need to practice in front of the bathroom mirror a bit more to get it right, though.

  • ||

    I actually think that a principled statesman type (not to be confused with Boehner) could credibly decline to lay out specifics, as follows:

    "Look, everyone agrees the government is in a state of fiscal crisis.

    "My position is that we are raising as much revenue as we need to run an effective, even compassionate, government. In fact, I don't think the federal government can raise its revenues any appreciable amount as a percentage of GDP, regardless of what it does with the tax code.

    "So, that means the only solution to the fiscal crisis is spending cuts. What to cut, and how much, needs to be a decision reached after a long national conversation, unlike, say, the process that led to health reform bill.

    "At this point, voters need to decide whether they will vote for candidates who have a realistic view of the problem and promise to make the cuts necessary to solve it, over the candidates who do not.

    "The specifics of what gets cut will inevitably get hashed out in Congress. There's little point in getting into much detail now."

  • ||

    You have my vote for speaker of the house...or at least the house majority leader.

    Note: Is that the same thing?

  • zoltan||

    It is not the same; Steny Hoyer is the current one.

  • jasno||

    Exactly.

    I think you first need to make god damned sure that most voters appreciate the gravity of the problem and why cuts are needed before discussing cuts.

    You don't start out the discussion talking about what you're going to take away without making sure your constituents understand those cuts are in their best interests.

    Sure, WE know entitlements could sink the country, but the majority of voters really don't. You've got to worry about the 50% of the booger-eating, entitlement grabbing, normally non-voting public who would suddenly become very motivated to vote for your opponent if you start talking about reducing their freebies.

  • creech||

    Obviously, those of us who aren't running for anything have to be the ones who have the adult conversations.
    Then, when 50% +1 of the voters are clamoring for libertarian solutions, the pols will follow.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Well according to a stastitics I heard on Stossell's Fox show last night, about 60% of the population is getting more benefits out of the federal govt than they are paying into it.

    So good luck getting 50% + 1 who are willing to give that up.

  • George V||

    Did that amount take into consideration the return a person would have accrued by investing?

  • ||

    follows through by cutting taxes but not spending, thereby making the problem worse.

    This is bullshit. Deficit spending is bad but taking away the fruits of people's labors is worse.

  • George V||

    Amen.

  • Mo||

    Because it's taking away the fruits of tomorrow's labors plus interest? Deficit spending isn't free.

  • Krugabe||

    LIAR!

  • ||

    Deficit spending isn't free.

    It is payed for through inflation.

    You have a choice to escape inflation. Buy gold, buy stocks, buy real estate, buy foreign currency...there is more

    I pick the individual right to keep the fruits of my labor over some vague communal right to a stable currency any day of the week.

  • Mo||

    Inflation is priced into the interest rate. Jesus Christ, did you learn econ from the back of a cereal box or, worse yet, from joe?

  • ||

    Inflation is priced into the interest rate.

    Then why are interest rates going down when Foreign currencies, food prices, energy prices and gold going up?

    Without even looking at the real world evidence your claim is that by increasing the supply of money it will raise the value of money. This breaks pretty fundamental rules of supply and demand. To many dollars mean the value of money goes down. If the value of money goes down then how can loaners ask for more money for it?

    Your claim is a paradox that makes inflation an impossibility.

    The strong link between interest rates and inflation is a myth.

  • Mo||

    Boehner's adult conversation on entitlements is ending all of the cuts to entitlements.

  • ||

    Most Democrats I know utterly refuse to believe that entitlements are in any way out of control.

    So, good luck with that.

  • Corduroy||

    Also keep in mind that most of the truly elderly revere FDR and believe that most of the current entitlement programs are the only thing keeping us from a reenactment of a Steinbeck novel.

    An attack on SS and MD is therefore equivalent to an attack on FDR. I've had these discussions with my inlaws and for some strange masochistic reason I keep trying to convince them that FDR was a dolt who put us on the path to collective bankruptcy.

  • Tony||

    Way out of control compared to what? They're models of efficiency compared to the Pentagon, and any private sector alternative to them, for that matter. Libertarians are pathetic when they peddle in GOP starve-the-beast talking points. I know you want the same thing, but that doesn't entitle to your own facts. There's nothing wrong with "entitlements" that can't be fairly easily fixed. You just don't want them fixed, you want them to die.

  • ||

    Oh, they're going to die. Have no doubt about that.

    It's just a question of whether they drag our society down into the grave with them like a zombie crocodile.

  • ||

    "fairly easily fixed" according to Tony "unfairly turning one generaltion into tax slaves to pay for the entitlements of people wealthier than them"

    If social security is supposed to be a social contract, why do the benefits and tax levels vary according which generation is more politically influential?

  • ||

    Worry not, Hazel. When the next generation gets old they'll be able to extort the generation after them, and so on. It's how this whole human tragicomedy keeps perpetuatin' itself.

  • ||

    Exactly, payroll taxes were increased in the 80s, because THAT generation of retirees needed more money. And are now collecting more than they put into the system, as it happens. Now this generation needs even MORE MONEY, because our lies about the benefits they have earned keep increasing, so Tony's proposal is to be even more unfair to the next generation.

    Are you seeing the pyramid scheme yet?

  • ||

    private sector alternative to them, for that matter.

    Try to pay your debts by printing your own money and you will discover your claim to be horribly false.

    SS is this year for the first time not liquid. It takes in less money then it is paying out. No private firm can support that and the government survives by printing money.

  • ||

    ""No private firm can support that and the government survives by printing money.""

    And taking loans.

  • ||

    And taking loans.

    Hi i need a loan. My company has lost 40 billion this year and next year it will lose 60 billion...the year after that it will lose 80 billion.

    The gap between revenues and expenses is expected to grow until 20 years after the birth rate triples. The birth rate is currently dropping like a stone and no reasonable projection shows a reversal of this trend.

    Also our CEOs refuse to acknowledge that we are losing money.

    We have no assets.

    What kind of interest rate can I expect to get for a line of credit to keep us solvent?

  • ||

    Is the alt-text a sly put-down of the good congressman's complexion?

  • Michael Ejercito||

    This wisdom needs to be repeated .

    Even if the GOP was serious about spending cuts, they would be fools to start talking about specifics before the election. Right now, in the electorate's simplistic view, the Republicans are about cutting the deficit and the Democrats are about ballooning it, and that's unlikely to change before November. All they would accomplish by naming specifics would be to give the Dems ammunition. If they said they wanted to cut funding for needle distribution programs, the Dems would dig up a bunch of blonde, white mothers whose kids died of AIDS from hypodermic needles and have them testify before Congress, and the MSM would run new angles on the story every day for a week. If they say they want to cut back on funding for green energy, the MSM will trot out experts to say the planet is going to be irreparably damaged if the GOP wins, and run with that story every day for a week.
  • ||

    Is not talking about until after the vote really wisdom?

    Sounds like the Ds with health care.

  • Martin||

    That was a very illuminating, if not surprising exchange. Basically, he's saying trust us. We'll do the right thing once elected.

  • ||

    I fail to see how what Boehner said is unreasonable... He's saying that one can't talk about "solutions" until one grasps the problem. The public isn't going to be ready for controversial solutions no matter how hardcore the fiscal right wants to be until they're well and truly horrified by the complete reality of the problem.

    The public is getting there, but not quite.

  • ||

    When will all adults be included?

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