The White House has been hyping its #My2K Twitter hashtag in an attempt to galvanize supporters to contact their Congressional representatives to demand action to avert the fiscal cliff. The administration estimates that unless Congress moves, the average family's tax bill will jump by more than $2,000, starting on the first of January. The implication, of course, is that Republicans are once again standing in the way of resolving this problem. Show of hands -- as the media breathlessly follows every minor twist and turn of these negotiations, how many of you have seen this fact reported?
Seems somewhat relevant, no? Indeed, a bipartisan majority in the Republican-held House of Representatives passed a package of measures to solve the fiscal cliff back in August. The legislation maintained the current tax rates for the middle class (and everyone else); other Republican efforts aimed at offsetting the devastating defense cuts outlined in sequestration -- which the president's own Secretary of Defense has likened to the US military shooting itself in the head -- also passed. Democrats will hasten to point out that the Republican bills were not "balanced" with tax increases on the rich. This is true, but that's a different complaint than the assertion that the GOP is sitting around twiddling its thumbs, playing a high-stakes game of ideological chicken. The only party officials openly discussing shoving the economy over the fiscal cliff are Democrats. Republicans have put forth a series of plans -- where are, say, the White House's specific offerings? The Left accuses conservatives of holding the middle class hostage by refusing (thus far) to agree to tax rate increases on "the rich." But Democrats are also middle class hostage-takers under this scenario, except their demands are a bit different. They are insisting upon targeted tax increases that Obama opposed two years ago for reasons that still apply today. Meanwhile, GOP leadership has signaled a willingness to play ball on revenues, as they have in the not-so-distant past. As for the other side of the aisle, even mainstream media organizations have recognized that Democrats aren't holding up their end of the bargain by coming to the table on entitlement spending. Democrats' mature, responsible response? Demand that Republicans come up with some more ideas for them to reject and demagogue:
Senate Democrats are blaming Republicans for the slow pace of the fiscal cliff negotiations, arguing that Republicans have failed to lay out the entitlement spending cuts they want to see as part of a deal … Senate Democrats say they have made their opening bid on the revenue side by pushing House Republicans to approve a Senate-passed bill to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class while raising tax rates on the wealthy. Now, Democrats want Republicans to offer up the spending cuts they want to see – a move the GOP doesn’t seem inclined to make right now … For their part, Republicans argue that they have passed a budget that included significant entitlement reforms and now it’s up to the president to say what cuts he will support.
This is just precious. Democrats' "opening bid" is an insistence that Republicans agree to (job-killing, drop-in-the-deficit-bucket) tax increases on the rich. This magnanimous offer involves precisely zero compromise on their part, of course. Their next bold move is to say, "ok, guys, now that we've repeated ourselves for the umpteenth time on stickin' it to the rich for jollies, it's time for you to outline specific entitlement cuts that we can use to paint you as heartless bastards." (Carol decries this cynical ploy below). Perhaps this is what Dick Durbin meant when he said entitlement reform should be "on the table." It'll only be on the table in the sense that Democrats will continue to commit to jack squat, using the safety of their do-nothing crouch to attack the only meaningful ideas being offered by either side. In short: You give us everything we want, then you do the politically-risky heavy lifting on everything else, which we'll probably just use to batter you over the head anyway. Compromise! Second look at this idea?
Parting thought: I love National Journal's he-said-she-said reporting in the excerpt above. "Republicans argue" that they've already passed several budgets containing sweeping and controversial entitlement reform plans. This isn't a partisan argument. It's a simple historical fact. Here are two more: (1) The president has authored two recent budgets that punted on entitlements, raised taxes, and massively increased the national debt. They've attracted a grand total of zero votes in both houses of Congress. (2) The Democrat-controlled Senate has not attempted to introduce their own budget in more than 1,300 days, despite their legal obligations to produce such a document annually. By all accounts, they have no intention of fulfilling this requirement any time soon.