Steve Benen surveys the battlefield:
Republicans seriously believe President Obama must accept $2.7 trillion in cuts--without raising taxes at all--within the next two months. And if not, there will be an enormous crisis.
And what is it, exactly, that GOP leaders expect to cut by $2.7 trillion? Oddly enough, they haven't said, but (a) Republicans apparently anticipate deep cuts to social insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security; and (b) Democrats are supposed to help Republicans come up with the list of cuts.
Yet the potential occurrence and chronology of (b) is essentially irrelevant if (a) unfolds beyond the murkiness of mere anticipation. For if one party to a negotiation proposes something and the opposing party either embraces or reluctantly agrees to that something, the practical outcome is that both parties own it, the something. The recent verbal ping-ponging over the political genesis of a chained CPI is an excellent case in point: in the end, it made no difference who proposed it--Republicans or Obama--since the latter's intellectual acceptance of it instantly converted to a present co-ownership.
Simply legitimizing the once unthinkable is, for Republicans, half the battle. If they can just hog-tie and drag the wickedly absurd into the public arena for "reasonable" debate--meaning they can provoke the other side to calmly meditate over the bloody thing--then they've plausibly begun a countdown to doom.
Take, as another excellent example, a hike in Medicare's eligibility age. A mere three or four years ago the public debate centered on lowering the eligibility age as a substitute for (oh my, how I resist typing this hoary phrase) the public option. Thereupon ensued the GOP's massive propaganda campaign about Obama's hair-raising debt and the nation's suicidally contributing entitlement programs--and now here we are, calmly discussing an immensely regressive "fix"--bumping up eligibility--to the wrong problem. (As Robert Reich pluckily noted on "PBS Newshour" last night, against his vampiric co-guests of entitlement bloodsuckers: Medicare isn't the problem. Healthcare costs are the problem, of which Medicare is simply one of the many victims.)
Thus (b) can be easier done than said.