The Great Republican Sacred Cow

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Last week I wrote a post about what Alison Kilkenny at The Nation has called “the era of the one-sided compromise,” questioning whether the Republican party, both at the state and national levels, could actually compromise on a budget deal that included some sort of new tax revenue. My conclusion was no, they wouldn’t be able to. Which is exactly what played out over the weekend, as Jonathan Cohn writes at The New Republic:

As you have probably heard by now, House Speaker John Boehner on Saturday evening informed President Obama that he was no longer interested in pursuing a “grand bargain” on deficit reduction. It was a major turning point in the debate. For the past week, Obama has made clear that he hoped to use ongoing negotiations over the debt ceiling to put in place a massive, potentially historic deal to reorder the nation’s spending priorities – a deal that would reduce deficits by as much as $4 trillion cumulatively over the next decade. 

This abandonment by Boehner has left Cohn, like so many of us, wondering, “Does anything matter to Republicans more than protecting tax cuts for the very wealthy?” Cohn points out that any “grand bargain” that could have been reached as a result of the current debate would “reflect Republican priorities far more than Democratic ones,” including cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. In other words, the stuff that matters to one side would be represented far more than the stuff that matters to the other. Still, the Republicans can’t stomach the idea of the Bush-era tax cuts for the nation’s wealthiest expiring next year. 

Cohn sees Boehner’s willingness to negotiate as genuine and writes, “For what it’s worth, I’ve actually gained some respect for Boehner…[he] was genuinely interested in negotiating a deal even if that meant agreeing to some compromises, albeit pretty modest ones from my perspective.” However, he acknowledges that Boehner’s not really in charge of the House Republican caucus. “The lunatics are,” he writes. “And it looks like they’ve won.”

And while the consensus seems to be shifting somewhat that the Republicans’ inability to touch their no-new-taxes sacred cow is actually the culprit for negotiations breaking down, Jonathan Chait recognizes a failure on the part of the media in reporting on this issue:

The other thing to add is that this demonstrates a fact that media centrists have failed to grasp for months: the impediment to a balanced (or even heavily rightward-tilting) deficit plan isn’t “both parties.” It’s Republicans. Democrats may not like the idea of cutting entitlements, but their objections don’t come close to matching the GOP’s theological opposition to tax increases.

Source: The New Republic

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