House Speaker John Boehner said Friday there has been no progress in negotiations to avert a "fiscal cliff" combination of automatic tax increases and spending cuts in January and called on President Barack Obama to produce a new offer.
Four days after House Republicans offered a plan to raise tax revenues and cut spending, Boehner told reporters that the White House has failed to outline its proposal and instead has pushed the nation closer to a fiscal cliff that economists warn could plunge the country into another recession.
The two men also spoke privately by phone on Wednesday. Boehner described the conversation as pleasant, "but just more of the same.".
"Since then, there's been no counteroffer from the White House," Boehner complained. "Instead, reports indicate that the president has adopted a deliberate strategy to slow-walk our economy right to the edge of the fiscal cliff."
Boehner singled out for criticism White House aides who have said that Obama was willing to allow Bush-era tax cuts to expire on all Americans on Jan. 1 and automatic, across-the-board spending cuts to kick in the next day. He called their comments "reckless talk."
Boehner repeated the long-standing Republican argument that raising tax rates would be detrimental to small businesses and "is not going to help our economy and it's not going to help those seeking work." Obama has insisted that any deal must include an increase in the tax rates for high earners.
The Republican leader pointed out that he had offered on Monday to raise tax revenues by $800 billion over the next decade by ending or reducing tax breaks, particularly on the wealthy. The Republican plan would cut spending by $1.4 trillion, including by trimming annual increases in Social Security payments and raising the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67.
"When is he going to take a step toward us?" Boehner asked of Obama.
The Speaker's comments came on the same day that consumer confidence dropped in early December, likely due to anxiety about the potential for higher taxes resulting from contentious discussions in Washington over fiscal issues.
And jobs numbers announced Friday also were not as optimistic as expected.
The unemployment rate dropped two tenths of a point from 7.9 percent to 7.7 as 146,000 jobs were created in the U.S. economy, surprising forecasters who expected the rate to go up as a continuing result of superstorm Sandy.
Although the economy continues its grindingly slow expansion, the size of the labor force shrunk by 350,000 people, suggesting that the rate is innaccurate as many people continue to give up their look for work, according to The Washington Post.
"While more work remains to be done, today's employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to heal from the wounds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression," said Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
Economists had predicted that only 77,000 jobs were created in November, according to CNN, but with less of an effect from Sandy than expected, as well as just under 53,000 new retail jobs added for the holidays, the rate dropped to 7.7 instead of rising to 8.
Job creation numbers for September and October also were adjusted down by 49,000 jobs, continuing the monthly downward shift of previous numbers that comes with each new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The total percentage of unemployed people in the country is 14.4, down two-tenths of a point from October, and down more than half a point from last November when it stood at 15 percent.
Experts caution that while the numbers continue to improve, the economy is chugging along just barely doing what it can to grow slowly.
“It’s not something to get too excited about,” said Nigel Gault, chief United States economist for IHS Global Insight. “The number is 146,000 and the average so far this year is 151,000. We’re pretty much in line with what we’ve been doing.”
The Associated Press and Reuters were used to supplement this report.
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