Count on it: In the coming days and weeks, Republicans will be accused -- not just by Democrats, but by the chattering class that includes some self-styled conservatives -- of wild irresponsibility regarding the nation's fiscal health. It isn't that Republicans are models of rectitude on the subject -- see the Bush deficits. And it's true that some Republicans, like Americans for Tax Reform's Grover Norquist, have fetishized their opposition to taxes to the point where they defend pot-valiantly even tax subsidies such as those for ethanol. It's enough to make you think they're drinking the stuff. Still, when it comes to chaperoning America toward bankruptcy, the Democrats have no peers.
Here are some facts to keep in mind:
In February 2010, President Obama formally acknowledged that debt and deficits were potentially fatal problems for the United States. Declaring, "For far too long, Washington has avoided the tough choices necessary to solve our fiscal problems," Obama appointed a deficit commission to make recommendations about controlling America's skyrocketing debt. "I'm confident," the president blustered, "that the Commission I'm establishing today will build a bipartisan consensus to put America on the path toward fiscal reform and responsibility. I know they'll take up their work with the sense of integrity and strength of commitment that America's people deserve and America's future demands."
They did take up their work in that spirit. The president and his party were another matter. A majority of commission members issued a report in December 2010. Saying "America cannot be great if we go broke," the report called for ambitious spending cuts (reducing spending to 21 percent of GDP over the next quarter century from its current rate of more than 25 percent), dramatic tax reform and sweeping changes to entitlement programs, including narrowing eligibility for the wealthy and increasing the retirement age. "The era of debt denial is over, and there can be no turning back," the Bowles-Simpson commission concluded. "In the words of Sen. Tom Coburn, 'We keep kicking the can down the road and splashing the soup all over our grandchildren.'"
Members of the Republican House leadership issued a respectful response, demurring on some points. "This is a provocative proposal, and while we have concerns with some of their specifics, we commend the co-chairs for advancing the debate." Nancy Pelosi pronounced the proposal "simply unacceptable."
The president ignored the report entirely -- choosing to douse the grandchildren.