David Brooks is amazed that Republicans aren't taking all the tax cuts the Obama administration has given up in the debt-ceiling kabuki negotiations and going so far as calling them a "Not Normal" party.
The Democrats have agreed to tie budget cuts to the debt ceiling bill. They have agreed not to raise tax rates. They have agreed to a roughly 3-to-1 rate of spending cuts to revenue increases, an astonishing concession.
Moreover, many important Democrats are open to a truly large budget deal. President Obama has a strong incentive to reach a deal so he can campaign in 2012 as a moderate. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, has talked about supporting a debt reduction measure of $3 trillion or even $4 trillion if the Republicans meet him part way. There are Democrats in the White House and elsewhere who would be willing to accept Medicare cuts if the Republicans would be willing to increase revenues.
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 million 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.
The party is not being asked to raise marginal tax rates in a way that might pervert incentives. On the contrary, Republicans are merely being asked to close loopholes and eliminate tax expenditures that are themselves distortionary.
This, as I say, is the mother of all no-brainers.
But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.
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.
It's not shocking to us. They haven't been a normal party for a long time and the Obama administration has allowed them to control the narrative anyway. Of course they are going to push and push and push for more and more and more. Does anybody believe that Republicans will eventually not raise the debt ceiling with what they are already getting? I heard from Andrea Mitchell today that the date is around July 22nd in which the CBO needs to get the information from Congress to score so they can have it ready before the August 2nd deadline.
Is this the big hope for Team Obama? They agree to off-the-chart spending cuts hoping to get a nominal increase in revenue somewhere -- which, in the scope of the negotiations, is meaningless -- and then hope Rand Paul or somebody else refuses even a deal that David Brooks can't believe happened, and then they win the Beltway Villagers over to their side?
The debt ceiling was always raised with no muss or no fuss because the American economy is not the same as my personal bank account. Tremendous amounts of monies flow through the world and this country and not raising it would be catastrophic. Since Brooks is so connected to the grand poobahs of the GOP, you have to wonder if some of them worried that the Tea Party element actually won't allow them to raise the debt ceiling unless they get 100% of what they want, and so they sent him out to do some dirty work. Or is it a ploy to start singing kumbaya for all the spending cuts they've gotten already from the Dems once the ceiling is raised?
Richard Cohen even joins in the fray on our side for a change and calls the GOP 'a cult' -- but what of it? Where were Brooks and Cohen when they were really needed? Steve Benen wonders if the GOP has pushed the Villagers too far this time:
In general, this political establishment is “wired” in Republicans’ favor. It’s GOP ideas that get attention; it’s GOP talking points that get internalized; it’s GOP voices that get aired.
But when it comes to the debt ceiling and debt-reduction talks, and the fact that Democrats are the only ones willing to compromise, I can’t help but wonder if the tide of elite opinion is starting to turn against Republicans. If so, it’s pretty late in the game — Brooks and Cohen should have picked up on this months, if not years, ago — but here’s hoping the circumstances and radical tactics have left Villagers with no other choice.
I seriously doubt it.