House Speaker John Boehner held yet another press conference on the fiscal cliff late Thursday morning, saying President Obama had not yet made clear exactly what spending cuts he would accept. The reporters tweeting about Groundhog Day ignored one thing that made the (not that troubled) speaker's appearance new and special: a chart. Boehner presented the graphic at right, which shows spending going way up starting about 2023, while taxes remain constant. Oh, and he credited Rep. Paul Ryan with creating the chart. Before he was selected to be Mitt Romney's running mate, Ryan had a reputation for being a policy wonk who'd made, in President Obama's words, "a serious proposal" for talking the budget deficit. Boehner could use that aura of seriousness right now.
According to a Pew Research Center poll released Thursday, the majority of Americans — 55 percent — think Obama "is making a serious effort to work with Republicans" on the fiscal cliff. But only 32 percent think Republican leaders "are making a serious effort to work with Obama." In his press conference, Boehner tried to push public opinion the other way: "It’s clear the president is just not serious about cutting spending. But spending is the problem," he said.
Whether or not he's successful in reshaping the GOP's public image, there appear to remain two serious areas of disagreement: 1) that Republicans don't want to raise tax rates, and 2) that Republicans want Obama to name the entitlement cuts he'd accept, while Obama wants them to name the ones they want first. Will the chart work? Will anything? Looks like we may not find out until after Christmas.