Political Animal


June 28, 2011 1:10 PM What’s considered extreme in the debt talks

By Steve Benen

The congressional Republicans’ hostage strategy is pretty straightforward: Democrats are expected to offer a debt-reduction package that pleases GOP officials or Republicans will crash the economy on purpose. In the Dems’ latest effort to pay the ransom, they’ve offered to slice $2.4 trillion from the debt over the next decade — $2 trillion in cuts and $400 billion in increased revenue.

That five-to-one split — for every dollar in increased revenue, Democrats would cut about five dollars in spending — was deemed too liberal.

With that in mind, it’s worth appreciating what Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) recommends. From a speech he delivered on the floor yesterday:

“Mr. President, please listen to the overwhelming majority of the American people who believe that deficit reduction must be about shared sacrifice. The wealthiest Americans and the most profitable corporations in this country must pay their fair share. At least 50 percent of any deficit reduction package must come from revenue raised by ending tax breaks for the wealthy and eliminating tax loopholes that benefit large, profitable corporations and Wall Street financial institutions. A sensible deficit reduction package must also include significant cuts to unnecessary and wasteful Pentagon spending.”

Sanders believes, if there’s going to be a debt-reduction plan, half the savings should come from taxes and half from spending cuts. And some of those cuts should come from the massive defense budget. If you put this to a poll, I imagine a large chunk of the public would consider this pretty reasonable.

With that in mind, think about how ridiculously skewed the debate has become: Sanders’ blueprint is considered so incredibly radical, it’s not even a remote possibility. The Washington Post mentioned in passing this morning that Sanders’ approach simply has “no chance of passing.”

We have a Democratic Senate and a Republican House, but the notion of an equitable, 50-50 split is thought of as fanciful nonsense backed only by liberal extremists. When Republicans demand a 100-0 split in their favor, meanwhile, and failure to do so will mean they cause a recession on purpose, this is somehow just routine and predictable.

I suspect if a senator suggested a 100-0 split in the other direction — no job-killing spending cuts, only tax increases — GOP officials would simply faint, en masse, at the very idea.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • Steve LaBonne on June 28, 2011 1:19 PM:

    So suppose they come up with a (bad, it goes without saying) deal- this time. What happens when the next hostage situation comes up? Which it will, before 2012, because the Republicans will make sure the amount of the increase isn't enough to get us that far.

  • c u n d gulag on June 28, 2011 1:20 PM:

    "OK, let's split this pizza in half.

    We and the rich get the pie.

    You and the others get the box.

    It's only fair!

    Hey wait, there's still some cheese clinging to the top of the box. GIMME THAT!!!!

    OK, now it's yours..."

  • Four Legsgood on June 28, 2011 1:21 PM:

    they'll faint en masse? then by all means, let's suggest it.

    Maybe we'll get lucky and they won't wake up.

  • martin on June 28, 2011 1:25 PM:

    Seems like a great reason to try;>

    Though it should have been the starting point in "negotiations" all along.

  • Michael on June 28, 2011 1:36 PM:

    Threatening the well being of millions of innocent people in order to get your way -- isn't that terrorism? And shouldn't the Republican strategy be called "economic terrorism"?

  • Joe Friday on June 28, 2011 2:04 PM:

    Sanders believes, if there's going to be a debt-reduction plan, half the savings should come from taxes and half from spending cuts.

    Given that the vast overwhelming majority of the federal deficits and debt are from the numerous rounds of tax cuts for the Rich & Corporate, even that ratio is out of whack.

    Never pay blackmailers, they will always be back for more.

  • Danp on June 28, 2011 2:05 PM:

    The biggest fallacy is that compromise is needed here. Congress passed budgets to spend the money. Now the US is obligated to pay its bills. Period.

  • hopeless pedant on June 28, 2011 2:06 PM:

    What the Repubs are doing is no different than if Obama and the Dems said that unless all the debt reduction came from tax increases, then there's no deal, and we'd default.

    No difference at all.

    It would be just as much blackmail - let's call it what it is - and borderline terrorist activity.

    Obama needs to speak to the nation and explain this as clearly as possible, emphasize facts are on his side, and put the onus on the Repubs.

    He does need to avoid the consequences from a debt limit non-raise, so I'd suggest he do what is needed temporarily, then say, we have an election next year, let the people decide by who they elect president and to Congress.

    He does have some cards to play, but he is going to need all his skill to keep himself and more important the economy from collapsing.

  • sinclair on June 28, 2011 2:06 PM:

    You know, I can't shake the feeling that if a Democratically-controlled House were holding the economy hostage for specious, partisan reasons and in the face of two continuing wars and a severe economic crises, the response from the media would be downright apoplectic. They'd be calling for hangings on the White House lawn.

    Is is the bigotry of low (no?) expectations? Or simply IOKIYAR? It's utter bullshit either way.

  • c u n d gulag on June 28, 2011 2:07 PM:

    OK, the troll games have started again!

    That was NOT me at 2:02.

    Hey asshole using my handle - if you're going to say something fucking stupid and obnoxious, get your own handle.

    Troll on home and get back under the rock that covered you.

  • T2 on June 28, 2011 2:13 PM:

    I just heard a Serious Person on MSNBC saying that it might take a collapse of the Stock Market to convince "congress" to make a deal on the debt and budget. Naturally, this person blamed both sides....the Dems want to raise income through taxes (a Constitutional right) and the GOPTP wants to slash spending (on things they don't like).
    So both sides are to blame, and the result will be millions of ordinary Americans losing what's left of their investments. Somethings rotten here.

  • Ron Byers on June 28, 2011 2:19 PM:

    What do average Americans have to lose? Their jobs? Already gone. Their houses? Already forclosed. Their futures? What futures? As long as the plutocrats on Wall Street continue running this country, average Americans are screwed.

    If the economy tanks rich people have more to lose than the rest of us. I say stand firm.

    What I said above is shared by a lot of Americans and is probably why many Americans don't mind crashing the economy. The only chance they have is if we reshuffle the deck.

  • Danp on June 28, 2011 2:29 PM:

    The only chance they have is if we reshuffle the deck.

    You think it will be properly shuffled this time? Seems to me that even though "Nobody" understood those complex derivitives, only Bernie Madoff's clients (well, and the middle to lower class) got seriously hurt the last time.

  • Ron Byers on June 28, 2011 3:13 PM:

    Well, the middle to lower classes make up most of the country. They are the ones who have suffered as wealth has been shuffled to the rich and powerful. They are also the ones being asked to pick up the bill for the rich right now. They are the ones who have been screwed by the failure of the government to act effectively in the mortgage crisis. They are the ones who have lost millions of jobs. They are the ones for whom college is out of reach. They are the ones whose kids will be living like Mexican peasants if the Republcans and the Centrist Democrats have their way. They are the ones who don't have access to media outlets. They have no one pleading their case.

  • Ron Byers on June 28, 2011 3:16 PM:


    I don't think resuffling the deck will solve much, but for a generation or two the new political elites will pretend to care. Neither party even pretends anymore.

  • Josef K on June 28, 2011 3:16 PM:

    Okay, thought experiment time. Let's say things play out where there's no compromise by August 6th and the US experiences a budgetary shortfall where it can't pay its various obligations.

    What's actually going to happen to the average American?

    I'm quite serious in asking here. We've heard a lot of doomsaying, but what are the concrete consequences that we will see of the US reaching its debt limit and effectively defaulting on its obligations?

    What will it matter to someone working in Burger King in Topeka, Kansas that our national credit rating is lowered or that interest rates on bonds go haywire?

    Seriously, can someone spell out what all this means in real-world, everyday examples?

  • Mitch on June 28, 2011 3:32 PM:

    Hey Gulag, don't worry, those of use who know you will never be confused by such a stupid, blatant troll.

    And if the troll is going to complain about people who "live off of other peoples' money" then maybe he should take a look at the richest corporations in America who pay no taxes and get billions of free cash from Uncle Sam.

    Or maybe the top 1% who pay an average of 16% income tax. Unlike, say, my company with 80 employees which pays it's due, or me, as an individual who only makes about $50K/year and yet pay my taxes.

    I, for one, don't mind paying taxes as long as my roads are in good shape, our schools are educating out children, and the vulnerable are taken care of. Conservatives call me a socialist, I call myself a compassionate human being who views taxes as an investment. Too bad the richest of the rich only want more for themselves. To hell with the rest of the nation, right?

  • Goldilocks on June 28, 2011 3:54 PM:

    God, I'd so much love to see GOP officials faint en masse! And, in heaven's name, why not?

    The GOP are beholden to a man to Norquist and his Americans for Tax Annihilation Reform Thingy. They've pledged a blood oath of allegiance to the guy, for goodness sake. They will never renege on that, ever. To hell with America and the Constitution and all that democratic stuff, 'cos Norquist has them by the balls, the silly buggers. Seriously, that's the truth of the matter.

    Of course, Bernie Sanders has it right, as he usually does. The mystery is why so few can see it.

    Of course it will never happen, but I just wish the Democrats would put the debt ceiling issue to a clean vote, no compromise, and let these "shameless, craven, unprincipled, partisan hacks" (as Ms Maddow so delicately expressed it) do their worst.

  • jlt on June 28, 2011 4:04 PM:

    Excellent...Would love it if they did all fall out! So sick of the blackmail and lies!

  • c u n d gulag on June 28, 2011 4:13 PM:

    Are there still "Mod's" around here, or did 'CRAPTCHA' replace actual live humans monitoring this site?

    The comments at 2:02 with my handle were NOT written by me, and I'd like to see them erased.

    And they're STILL up!

    WTF's up wid dat?!?!?!?!?!

    [We're here and we got it. We're just slow sometimes. -- Mod]

  • Trollop on June 28, 2011 4:39 PM:

    Let the GOP force a default; I'll betcha they won’t be very influential after that!

    Fucking monetary terrorists in our midst and not one Democrat has called them that. Are the Democrats fucking retarded? There is a goldmine flaunting itself right in front of them and there is not even a squeak from Pelosi, Obama, Sanders, that opportunist from New York! Anybody? Guess not..

  • c u n d gulag on June 28, 2011 5:50 PM:

    That's OK, it happens.

    I was afraid that the powers that be thought CAPTCHA was like Reagan's missile defense program and fend off attacks before they happen, and that some of you had been outsourced to some PC server somewhere.

  • xando foote on June 28, 2011 5:54 PM:

    I have to suspect that it is a posturing at this point, much as was the case with the 2011 budget showdown. But one never knows. The theory of GOP economic sabotage should be given due consideration, given those with whom we must currently deal. I suggest that all further negotiations on issues such as this be conducted live for public edification.

    Meanwhile, nobody seems to be providing any estimates of ramifications that would accompany failure to raise the ceiling. I recall reading of the likely loss of 640,000 jobs, average 401(k) loss of $8,800, a lower dollar resulting in higher import costs, including fuel, etc. Why are there no projections?

    And why not again list all the economic experts, business leaders, political scientists, historians, et al, who predict dire consequences versus the wingnuts who say it will make no difference. The message seems to ba lacking.

  • montag on June 28, 2011 6:42 PM:

    If all the GOP fainted, could Harry call a vote and record them as Present but Not Voting?