If you are interested in the seemingly infinite chasm between Republicans and Democrats and the lack of any policy agreement (known in some circles as a compromise), prepare to be thunderingly stupefied at the state of communications described here:
On Thursday, I attended a background briefing with one of the most respected Republicans in Congress. The rules on these gatherings is you can’t name those involved, but you can quote them. […]
Would it matter, one reporter asked the veteran legislator, if the president were to put chained-CPI — a policy that reconfigures the way the government measures inflation and thus slows the growth of Social Security benefits — on the table?
“Absolutely,” the legislator said. “That’s serious.”
Another reporter jumped in. “But it is on the table! They tell us three times a day that they want to do chained-CPI.”
“Who wants to do it?” said the legislator.
“The president,” replied the reporter.
“I’d love to see it,” laughed the legislator.
You can see it. If you go to WhiteHouse.gov, the first thing you’ll see is an invitation to read the president’s plan to replace the sequester. That plan is only a page.
This is just soul-crushing to read. Ezra Klein wrote the above, and goes on to mention that chained-CPI isn’t the only concession on the part of president Obama that’s escaped the notice of congressional Republicans — throw in means-tested Medicare, Medigap reform, even past and future proposed spending cuts as well. These are things that, at some level, seem virtually nonexistent in the arguments of the Republican Party and their attending punditry:
Under the Permanent Campaign Shimmy, the president identifies a problem. Then he declines to come up with a proposal to address the problem. Then he comes up with a vague-but-politically-convenient concept that doesn’t address the problem (let’s raise taxes on the rich). Then he goes around the country blasting the opposition for not having as politically popular a concept. Then he returns to Washington and congratulates himself for being the only serious and substantive person in town.
That’s the NYT’s David Brooks who, after being called out, amended his piece to admit that the “White House has proposed various constructive changes to spending levels and entitlement programs.” There is something seriously wrong with being unable to admit that one side even has a plan, on the table, ready to be debated —notwithstanding the merits of the plan. Just acknowledging that it exists! In a readily-accessable form! Right here, splayed across the front page of the White House website:
Shrillness aside, this is maddening, and because there is no justice in this world for folks seeking sanity in politics, it doesn’t end here…
Ezra Klein, again, with the thunder meant to drive you to the brink, describing an encounter on Twitter with Republican strategist Mike Murphy (this is just the recap):
So let’s back up. Murphy’s initial view was that to unlock GOP votes for a budget deal, Obama just needed to endorse chained CPI and more means-testing in Medicare. Then it was pointed out that Obama has endorsed means-testing in Medicare, so Murphy wondered why he didn’t endorse chained CPI as part of a deal. Then it was pointed out that Obama did endorse chained CPI, at which point Murphy called chained CPI “a gimmick,” and said Obama had to endorse raising the Medicare age, drop his demands for more revenue as part of a deal and earn back the GOP’s trust.
This was all a response to Jonathan Chait’s thesis that a lack of communication, or awareness, is essentially besides the point — this isn’t about a talking past each other, or deals falling on deaf ears, or ‘getting serious,’ but this:
A few tweets later, Murphy gave his bottom-line view, which is that if Obama wants a deal, he needs to drop all of his demands and just agree to what the GOP wants to do.
The bottom line on American budgetary politics right now is that Republicans won’t agree to further tax increases and so there’s no deal to be had. This is not a controversial perspective in D.C.: It’s what Hill Republicans have told me, it’s what the White House has told me, it what Hill Democrats have told me. The various camps disagree on whether Republicans are right to refuse a deal that includes further tax increases, but they all agree that that’s the key fact holding up a compromise to replace the sequester.
But it’s unpopular for Republicans to simply say they won’t agree to any compromise and there’s no deal to be had — particularly since taxing the wealthy is more popular than cutting entitlements, and so their position is less popular than Obama’s. That’s made it important for Republicans to prove that it’s the president who is somehow holding up a deal.
Ugh. The beatings will continue until the outlook for a compromise improves, eh? Of course it isn’t just tax increases that are verboten. This includes no revenue whatsoever. Even fiddling with deductions that affect the wealthy, a plan that presidential candidate Mitt Romney proposed. This is what’s holding up a deal to replace the sequester and to credibly deal with our medium to long-term debt issues. There’s another word I can think to describe it; obstinacy.
The title for Klein’s first post was “What we have here is a failure to communicate,” which is actually a misquote — it should be “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” Strother Martin, playing the indelible Captain in Cool Hand Luke;
As Klein clearly showed in his followup, perhaps we should now include the subsequent line in that passage; “Some men you just can’t reach.”