I do love it when Grover "The Pope" Norquist, my very favorite unindicted co-conspirator, starts lecturing about how everyone should be happy to embrace Paul Ryan's "Let's Throw Granny From The Cliff" budget. It's hard to even keep up with the lies and the obfuscations (although George Stephanopoulos seems to get paid well enough that he should at least try). Then Matthew Dowd does the old "both sides are too extreme and won't let the adults get anything done" but Katrina Vanden Heuvel cuts to the real bottom line and puts them both in their places:
STEPHANOPOULOS: The middle exists in the country, it may not exist in Washington. But on your point about dogma, Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform, of course you popularized the no-tax pledge for many years. But on this plan by the speaker, which would have allowed taxes to go up on those making over $1 million a year, your group said this wasn't a tax increase, and that still wasn't good enough for a lot of House Republicans.
NORQUIST: Look, let's understand. There is a plan to actually solve the debt that's been run up, the deficits that continue, the entitlement reform and tax reform to get more pro-growth tax reform, and that's the Ryan plan, which has actually been passed twice by the House of Representatives. People can talk --
STEPHANOPOULOS: No support in the Senate, no support from the president. It's not going anywhere.
Notice the play here. Instead of pointing out that the Ryan plan is not a real budget, and that many credible sources say so, he comments only on the inside baseball. Time to become a lobbyist, George?
NORQUIST: But the Democrats in the Senate haven't done a budget in three, four years, haven't put anything forward that deals with entitlements.
There's one and only one plan that has actually been passed by one House. The president hasn't put anything forward that fixes entitlements. His plan, his budget, if you continue it out, you know, to 2040, 2050, takes you to 38 percent of GDP and the economy collapses.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This gets to an issue that I think -- other analysts have brought up during the week, it is, you're right about Congressman Ryan's plan passing the House, but there has been an election in November, and the House Republicans are only one part of Washington right now. They are--
NORQUIST: And the president is only one part. The Republicans actually passed a budget that -- not a budget, not just a budget, but a budget plan that goes out through the years, gives you entitlement reform, gives you pro-growth tax reform, doesn't raise taxes. You don't have to raise taxes to balance the budget. The left wants to raise taxes, but you don't have to, to balance the budget and take the debt down.
So they have got a plan. They've passed it, and they got re-elected having done that. The Senate got re-elected because they never voted on anything. It's the only way they were able to get re-elected. And so they haven't even put something forward, and the president's plan was an outline that the House and the Senate voted against. You can't argue you have a mandate when your own party voted against your budget.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Katrina, respond to that.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, THE NATION: George, there was an election. And Americans voted very clearly for a sense of different priorities than Grover Norquist has stood for. One was that the richest in this country pay their fair share, and I also resist very strongly Matthew Dowd, with the good Band-Aid and all, but what he said about the left and the right. Because it's not just the left, it's not just progressives, it's Americans in survey after survey support Social Security, Medicare.
Katrina, if you insist that progressives aren't some unrepresentative, wacky left-wing equivalent to the Tea Party, you're not going to be invited back!
And to take Social Security away from widowed women when the richest are paying the lowest taxes in modern memory is not about being a compassionate country in this time of season. It is about a country that's lost its way.
There are good ways to reduce the debt and deficit, but the largest issue, George, is that this is a manufactured crisis. We don't have a short-term deficit problem. We have a jobs and growth problem, and we have a faltering recovery, but we should put off the sequester, put off this grand bargain, come back, let the Bush tax cuts expire, make sure the middle class --
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you are saying just go over off the cliff at this point.
VANDEN HEUVEL: The cliff is a manufactured media drama, but the largest point is to say that the left or progressives are the ones who are supporting the great reforms of this country at a time when the richest are paying their lowest--
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- that may be, but on January 2nd, when everyone's taxes go up, it may not feel like it's a manufactured media event. It may feel real to an awful lot of Americans.