The news headlines focused on the committee's failure to reach agreement on taxes, but offered relatively few details on what they disagreed about. Nor was much light shed on the Republicans' offer to break the impasse by agreeing to raise some taxes.
In the closing days of the negotiations, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania offered a plan that would cut a range of itemized tax deductions and other credits that wealthier taxpayers use to reduce their taxable income, along with other fees and taxes that together totaled more than $500 billion in deficit reduction and $900 billion in spending cuts.
Cleansing the tax code of these tax breaks would result in higher revenue, some of which would be used lower the marginal tax rates across the board. This is the same plan that President Reagan and Democratic leaders agreed to in 1986 that lowered the top tax rate to 28 percent.
"We believe this lowering of the rates and broadening of the tax base would have spurred economic growth, created jobs and, in the process, generated billions more in revenue from growth in the economy," Toomey and his five Republican colleagues said a column they wrote for the Washington Post last week.
At the time, Toomey's plan looked like a solution that the 12 lawmakers were seeking. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, of all people, called the plan a "breakthrough" and the first new idea they had heard.
In the end, however, Durbin and the Democrats were unwilling to abandon their rigid ideological demands that ending the Bush tax cuts for the top two brackets had to be a part of the deal.
But as Toomey and his colleagues wrote to the Post, none of the tax reforms they had proposed "can happen if the current law's automatic tax increases occur on Jan. 1, 2013" -- the date when the two year extension of the Bush tax cuts expires.
"We can't both reform the code as Republicans propose and undo it all 12 months later," they said.
Let's be clear about what the Democrats are proposing in this unending battle over Bush's tax reductions which, by the way, also cut taxes for the middle class and created a new lower 10 percent tax for those in the lowest income bracket.
They would raise the top two income tax rates to 36 percent and to 39.6 percent, tax levels that would hit a lot of struggling small businesses who file as individuals; and boost the 15 percent capital gains and dividends tax to 20 percent -- a job killing blow to venture capital formation at a time when businesses need far more private investment, the mother's milk of economic expansion.
What's especially ironic is the fact that the compromise Toomey and the Republicans offered was right out of the debt-reducing, base- broadening tax rate reduction plan proposed by the president's bipartisan deficit commission.
The White House and the supercommittee's Democrats turned against their own commission's proposals, proving they weren't interested in serious debt reductions in the first place.
In an anemic, jobless economy that's barely growing at 2 percent, with poverty, homelessness and hunger on the ascendency, the Democrats' refusal to accept the GOP's offer was at best, irresponsible, and at worst, criminal.
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