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August 12, 2011 8:00 AM Ten-to-one isn’t good enough for the GOP

By Steve Benen

I’m still working my way through the transcript of last night’s debate for Republican presidential candidates, but there was one moment that clearly stood out for its significance. It wasn’t a zinger or an attack; it was a response all of the candidates offered by raising their hands.

About midway through the event, Byron York asked Rick Santorum about the next phase of the debt-reduction process, as the Murray/Hensarling panel (the “super committee”) begins its work. “Democrats will demand that savings come from a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, maybe $3 in cuts for every $1 in higher taxes,” York noted. “Is there any ratio of cuts to taxes that you would accept? Three to one? Four to one? Or even 10 to one?”

Santorum replied, “No. The answer is no.” He conceded that revenues are down, but argued that was a positive development.

Fox News’ Bret Baier opened the question up to all eight of the candidates on the stage. Take a look at the video:

For those who can’t watch clips online, Baier phrased it this way: “I’m going to ask a question to everyone here on the stage. Say you had a deal, a real spending cuts deal, 10-to-1, as Byron said, spending cuts to tax increases…. Who on this stage would walk away from that deal? Can you raise your hand if you feel so strongly about not raising taxes, you’d walk away on the 10-to-1 deal?”

All eight candidates raised their hand. Literally all of them, if offered a debt-reduction deal that’s 10-to-1 in their favor, would simply refuse.

Let’s note for context that in March — just five months ago — Republicans on the Joint Economic Committee released a report on deficit reduction. In it, House GOP officials outlined their ideal cuts-to-revenue ratio, and concluded that “successful” attempts at deficit reduction meet this goal: “85% spending cuts and 15% revenue increases.” Roughly speaking, that’s about a 5-to-1 ratio in Republicans’ favor — and this is what GOP officials characterized as their ideal earlier this year.

And yet, as of last night, every Republican running for president believes a 10-to-1 ratio simply isn’t good enough. What’s more, as the video shows, the crowd of Iowa Republicans roared with approval.

As a policy matter, if a 10-to-1 cuts-to-revenue ratio is considered far too liberal for the Republican Party in the 21st century, we can say with certainty the GOP is obviously not serious about debt reduction. We can also say with certainty Republican leaders haven’t the foggiest idea how to shape a coherent approach to fiscal sanity. But last night wasn’t about coherence or sanity; it was about impressing unhinged activists whose connection to reality is tenuous at best.

Regardless, this moment is a keeper. Anyone wanting to know why compromise has been deemed impossible in 2011 need look no further than these eight clowns raising their hand to reject a debt-reduction deal that’s overwhelmingly tilted in their favor.

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.

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  • Alli on August 12, 2011 8:07 AM:

    While making the case for why compromising won't work, you also make the case for why a no-compromise position won't work either. There is nothing the American people hate more than bickering politicians. Especially when their own livelihoods are at stake. Better for Obama to win politically even if he can't policy wise.

  • c u n d gulag on August 12, 2011 8:07 AM:

    Jeez, who knew Snow White was such a mean-spirited
    bitch?

    And that her 7 Dwarves were such unattractive evil trolls.

    It kind of makes me long for the Evil Queen.

    Where was Sarah? We could have used a few laughs!
    __________________________________________
    And 10 to 1?
    That is not a total capitulation.

    Any victory must be complete.

    Party over country.
    PARTY UBER ALLES!!!

  • DAY on August 12, 2011 8:08 AM:

    I suspect that the "crowd roaring with approval" are not (given their tax brackets- or lack thereof) are not concerned with tax increases.
    No, they are concerned- nay, OUTRAGED-by the spending "their' government wastes on the "other".

  • just bill on August 12, 2011 8:13 AM:

    the entire republican party isn't about coherence or sanity......

  • me on August 12, 2011 8:16 AM:

    "...Republican leaders havenít the foggiest idea how to shape a coherent approach to fiscal sanity."

    that's certainly been true for 30 years. why should now be any different?

  • Darsan 54 on August 12, 2011 8:17 AM:

    Tell Obama forget about bi-partianship. It's not going to work. You have to have someone who is actually grounded enough in objective reality to bargain with before that will happen.

    Give it up. The Republicans would rather burn the entire country to the ground than admit you, Mr. Obama, or any Democrat is right.

  • Kathryn on August 12, 2011 8:19 AM:

    Steve, thanks for reviewing transcripts so we (me, at least) won't have to do so. Since a healthy majority of Americans favor increased tax revenue from the richest and, getting richer, among us and also favor a balanced approach, how do they confront that in a general election? My guess is outright lies and obfuscation, the usual. I guess that crowd of Iowans who cheered are all secretly hedge fund managers masquerading as down home middle class evangelicals. How else to explain cheers for the demise of Medicare, changes to Social Security, food safety, air and water safeguards and regulations for Wall Street. We don't need no stinking regs for Wall Street or that commie Consumer Protection Agency!

  • delNorte on August 12, 2011 8:21 AM:

    Somewhat related, but not mentioned yesterday, check out the President's speech yesterday in Holland, MI:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fi39oxjttA

    Once again, he didn't call the Republicans out by name, but it should be clear to anyone only paying half-attention that it's Republicans who are playing games, ideology bound, and unwilling to compromise.

    In fact, NPR reported this morning that "The President criticized Republicans in a speech..." - so, even though he doesn't specify who he's talking about, the message is still being delivered.

  • Oh my on August 12, 2011 8:24 AM:

    All eight candidates raised their hand. Literally all of them, if offered a debt-reduction deal that's 10-to-1 in their favor, would simply refuse.

    And like Alice, further and further down the rabbit hole we go.

  • Danny on August 12, 2011 8:26 AM:

    Absolutely agree with you Steve. This is the sleeper narrative of 2012: even if the candidate in the end is one of the (claimed) more "serious" type republicans such as Romney, Huntsman, they're already on the public record with extremist positions. On deficit reduction they're probably well to the right of a third (at least!) of self identified republicans. They better be praying to God right now that the economy's gonna be in the sh-tter a year from now, because if it's even moderately better than now 2012 is gonna be about rejecting republican extremism. Movement Conservatism is behaving like a faith-driven high-stakes gambler at this point, and the lousy economy is the only thing keeping them from going bust.

  • SteveT on August 12, 2011 8:28 AM:

    Darsan 54 said:
    The Republicans would rather burn the entire country to the ground than admit you, Mr. Obama, or any Democrat is right.

    No, they would rather let their child die from pneumonia rather than commit the sin of using modern medicine.

    They are fanatical True Believers who make the Taliban look like slackers.

  • dsimon on August 12, 2011 8:32 AM:

    This issue is one for Democrats everywhere to run on. These anti-tax fetishists would reject any deal that contained trillions in budget cuts if it raised revenue by a single dime, and that single dime was paid by Warren Buffett (who wants to pay it). This position is opposed by a large majority of the public. It even lacks support of a majority of Republicans--though perhaps not Republicans who vote in primaries.

    There's a question as to whether anything but the economy will matter in 2012. But to the extent that other issues come into play, this one is an overwhelming winner for Dems, and it would be political malpractice to let these Republican candidates run away from it. It shows better than anything else their ideological fanaticism when most swing voters in general elections want pragmatic problem solvers.

  • Danny on August 12, 2011 8:34 AM:

    @delNorte

    They are playing it exactly right, using surrogates to call the Teajihadists out by name, while the President keeping plausible deniability about who the unpatriotic bastards are and everyone still getting the message. For the Emos who'll not be satisfied with anything less than the President demanding court martials for the teabaggers, have a read at this typically sleazy Posh-tico piece covering the speech to have a taste at how the republican-wired Village will try to spin the smallest hint of partisanship from a democrat. We have to outsmart the spinmeisters every step of the way to prevail, especially so when running an african american...

  • Danny on August 12, 2011 8:36 AM:

  • bdop4 on August 12, 2011 8:38 AM:

    And on Faux News no less. Hoisted on their own petards (or they should be).

    The only remaining question: will Dems receive this Gift from God and STILL fuck up?

    I mean, if they use it too effectively, people might say they're mean and then they wouldn't appear very bipartisany. Can't have that happen.

  • Ron Byers on August 12, 2011 8:40 AM:

    Are any of these people really runniing to win?

  • DAY on August 12, 2011 8:45 AM:

    Ron Byers on August 12, 2011 8:40 AM:

    "Are any of these people really runniing to win?"

    -YES! (in 2016. Remember Reagan's first grab at the brass ring?)

  • Holmes on August 12, 2011 8:47 AM:

    I didn't see the debate, but over at Jared Bernstein's site, he has a snippet of Romney, when asked about vetoing the debt ceiling deal, saying "I'm not going to eat Barack Obama's dog food". That literally makes no sense.

  • berttheclock on August 12, 2011 8:55 AM:

    For anyone who missed it, the quote, so far, of the day was Joe Scarborough, emphatically, saying that "Bachmann is a Joke". He began his rant by blasting her opening remark about her voting against the raising of the debt ceiling. He ended by saying conservatives such as his father would never vote for her. He chided the True Believers who control the Republican caucuses in Iowa for getting it very wrong every four years. Pat Robertson and Michelle Bachmann.

  • Brenna on August 12, 2011 9:04 AM:

    I think the way Kathy Hochul (NY-26) ran her campaign should be a solid template for how Dem candidates should run theirs in 2012. She simply told the truth in a convincing manner, and voters in that district (many whom had never voted for a dem) became alarmed. 2012 is about educating the country about the perils of voting for a republican.

    The scariest scenario to me is waking up Nov. 7, 2012 and finding out we have a republican president and a house/senate republican majority.

  • Anonymous on August 12, 2011 9:41 AM:

    Nice little observation from Katherine
    - Since a healthy majority of Americans favor increased tax revenue from the richest and, getting richer, among us and also favor a balanced approach, how do they confront that in a general election? My guess is outright lies and obfuscation, the usual. I guess that crowd of Iowans who cheered are all secretly hedge fund managers masquerading as down home middle class evangelicals.

    Redux with Danny - Movement Conservatism is behaving like a faith-driven high-stakes gambler at this point, and the lousy economy is the only thing keeping them from going bust

    If you had effectively become the darling of "journalists" by submitting an event where the Bain Capital CEO sensitivity of your approach to the productive heart and soul of a business is treated exactly the same as a family pet whilst enjoying a holiday jaunt , (talk about it parallel universes) , the reaction
    "I'm not going to eat Barack Obama's dog food". That literally makes no sense.

    Literally makes a guilty child sense . Romney ! for those moments when you feel sooo Stooopit ...

    A post to my beloved sister
    ................The Forest With no Trees
    A difficult matter to discuss as adults when the terms of the matter don't change yet the principals drift ever more lockstep away from any cooperative resolution dealing with events , facts and other immutable symbols of reality , in cold is not hot , up is not down , night is not day . Never mind that we are dealing with a political movement that not only equates the impossible reconciliation of balanced budget with budget deficit with less income and an unmaintainable budget that keeps a touching , super sensitive love for a defense budget that has unaccountably surged passed any commensurate budgetary maintenance into an unanswerable , beyond inflationary , behemoth that supersedes every other nation in the worlds combined military , defense budget . Sigh ...

    I uuused tooo get sooo excited now I only wants to survive .

  • FRP on August 12, 2011 9:44 AM:

    C'est moi

  • novenator on August 12, 2011 10:04 AM:

    These people are INSANE! Every single one of them. Spending on certain parts of the budget (I'm looking at you military/security complex) is out of control, but what has really ballooned deficits is this suicidal war on revenue. There wouldn't be a dime of national debt if taxes for the rich had not gone down and had asteroid sized loopholes created for 30 years.

    30 years of borrow and spend policies by fiscal conservatives to pay for war and tax cuts for the rich to "starve the beast". This is economic treason just as much as them holding America hostage over raising the debt ceiling to pay for the debt THEY created.

  • g on August 12, 2011 10:11 AM:

    Great. They just rhetorically made a 10 to 1 approach to cuts-vs-revenue the Central Position of the debate.

    I am sure the Democrats will now reasonably make it their opening offer, to be given away in the first round of negotiations.

  • Ohioan on August 12, 2011 11:46 AM:

    Transcript, Steve? What happened to the old 2008 "I watch the GOP debate so you don't have to" posts?

    Maybe you can nominate one of these commenters to watch so we can catch some nuance missed by the transcript.

    Not it.

  • giantslor on August 12, 2011 5:15 PM:

    Extremism in full bloom. Conservatism today is really some kind of reactionary, unprincipled anarchism.

  • square1 on August 12, 2011 5:35 PM:

    What Obama's defenders don't seem to understand is that when your political opponent reveals himself (or herself) to be a ideological zealot, you do not work on a compromise. You work on ousting your opponent from office so that you have a better negotiating partner.

    It isn't Obama's fault that Republicans take impossible positions. But it is entirely Obama's fault that he elected to negotiate with Republicans when he didn't have to.

    I mean, really. How fucking STUPID do you have to be to believe that Republicans were EVER going to vote for "more revenue"? The crop of misfits and circus clowns in the House won't vote for tax increases in a thousand years. If you want tax increases, you go to the public, explain why your opponent is blowing the country up, and you convince the public to vote for a new representative. This isn't rocket science. It is called democracy.

  • Doug on August 12, 2011 11:51 PM:

    square1, the elections aren't until November, 2012. Just exactly HOW is the country to be governed until then? Without the participation of that "crop of misfits and circus clowns", I mean?
    What YOU want is for the President to "go to the public" and tell them what conniving, rotten bastards the Republican/Teabaggers are, which is true. You want the President to do that because that's what YOU think they are, but because it will validate YOUR position and YOU will be proven "right", NOT because it will change a single vote (it won't).
    I write the above because it's obvious that the Republican/Teabaggers are convincing the public "to vote for a new representative" THEMSELVES! Why should we interfere while we're ahead? The moment President Obama unabashedly states that it's the Republican/Teabaggers fault, ANY gains Democrats have made over them will disappear. Is that what you want?
    Sometimes it's hard to tell...

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