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The political math of debt reduction: how $14 trillion - $2 trillion + $? in tax increases = 2012




U.S. President Barack Obama pauses while announcing that he has invited Congressional leaders to the White House to negotiate raising the nation's debt ceiling at the White House July 5, 2011 in Washington, DC.
U.S. President Barack Obama pauses while announcing that he has invited Congressional leaders to the White House to negotiate raising the nation's debt ceiling at the White House July 5, 2011 in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

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The political equations are almost as important as the financial ones: as the clock ticks toward August 2nd, the theoretical deadline to raise the debt ceiling before the U.S. goes into default, and negotiations continue for some kind of grand compromise that will raise the debt ceiling and cut several trillion dollars out of the budget deficit, all eyes are on a date much farther ahead than August. The date every player in this political dance has in mind is November 6, 2012, when the nation will vote on a new Congress and a new president. How this situation shakes itself out—whether or not the debt ceiling is increased, how much spending in the federal budget is cut, whether or not some kind of tax increases are included to help close the deficit—will help to determine the future of President Obama, his Democratic colleagues and his Republican adversaries.

Consider the political calculations: Speaker of the House John Boehner and his fellow Republicans want the victory of slashing $1 - $2 trillion in spending but they don’t want to give President Obama any kind of credit for making those cuts; President Obama wants the victory of including tax increases on the wealthy to close the deficit, and wants to be the man responsible for a tough austerity compromise that gets the country back on the road to fiscal stability. Forget about the difficulties of the real math involved in closing a $14 trillion deficit, the political equations might be even more difficult to solve.

Guest:

Chris Cillizza, writer of the Washington Post's political news and analysis blog "The Fix" and managing editor of PostPolitics.com