Later today President Obama will meet with Congressional leaders to take another run at getting Congress to raise the debt ceiling before August 2. While there appears to have been some movement towards what has been described as a “large deal”, with both sides ceding difficult political ground, that effort has apparently collapsed with Republicans rebelling against the inclusion of new revenues in the $4 trillion dollar deficit reduction package. Reports indicate that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor had said he and many other rank and file House Republicans would vote against any deal that includes revenues. The Washington Post summed it up neatly:
The emerging deal, however, quickly appeared to be collapsing under its own ideological weight. Liberals were outraged by Obama’s offer to rein in entitlement spending, particularly Social Security, which congressional Democrats believed would not be a part of the debt-reduction effort. The White House had offered to change the measure of inflation used to calculate Social Security payouts, a shift that could save more than $100 billion over the next decade, according to congressional budget analysts.
Conservatives, meanwhile, were uniformly opposed to raising taxes. That resistance has proved to be the biggest obstacle to a compromise of any size.
A liberal backlash had been taking place publicly, with Minority Leader Pelosi publicly opposing cuts to the entitlement programs. With Boehner being undercut from the right, including the roster of Republican Presidential candidates, and with Obama taking heat from the left, a deal was going to be a high wire act in any case. The President, I am sure, had an inkling that the Speaker was going to have a hard time delivering the Republican caucus on any grand compromise. The Speaker, to his credit, appears to recognize that a debt default would be a disaster for the United States, and was working towards a deal that would have been heavily weighted towards the Republicans. But he was undercut by his own Majority Leader and much of his caucus. Despite the gamesmanship on both sides the Republicans are truly missing a unique opportunity here, and in my opinion are largely responsible for the failure, so far, of the talks. David Brooks had it exactly right when he called acceptance of the proposed “large deal” by Republicans a no-brainer.
If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment. It is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred billion dollars of revenue increases.
A normal Republican Party would seize the opportunity to put a long-term limit on the growth of government. It would seize the opportunity to put the country on a sound fiscal footing. It would seize the opportunity to do these things without putting any real crimp in economic growth.
But the Republicans are no longer a force for responsibility in government, and Brooks is right about that as well.
The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no.
The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it.
Just about says it all when you have a so-called major Republican candidate for President (Tim Pawlenty) on Meet the Press bragging about taking actions that shut down state government while he was Governor. A core group of leaders in the Party appear to be dismissive of the consequences of failure to raise the debt ceiling, with the smarter Republican members imprisoned by their earlier rhetoric and by the imbecility of those in the Party pushing the country towards default. The Secretary of the Treasury explains some of the real world consequences of having juveniles in charge in the attached clip. It is time for adults to step up and get this done for the sake of the country.