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November 21, 2011 8:00 AM Kyl’s candid confession

By Steve Benen

Technically, the deadline for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction — better known as the super-committee — is still a couple of days away, but as a practical matter, members would need to have an agreement in place by tonight. That’s not going to happen, and the committee that everyone assumed would fail will meet expectations.

This was not, however, the only predictable result. We also knew from the outset that when the super-committee failed, the parties would point fingers at each other and the media would go to great lengths to insist “both sides” are to blame, regardless of the facts.

And sure enough, the political world is following the script to the letter.

For those who have some interest, though, in why this debt-reduction panel failed to reach its goal, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said something interesting on “Meet the Press” yesterday. The far-right Arizonan was boasting about how cooperative super-committee Republicans had been, including the “breakthrough” of GOP members offering to add billions of saving through increased revenue, targeting tax loopholes.

Host David Gregory, to his credit, reminded Kyl of reality: “But let’s talk about the full, balanced picture here, which is that Republicans wanted to have a conversation in the course of trying to lower the deficit about extending the Bush-era tax cuts, which the Congressional Budget Office would say has an impact of $3.7 trillion on the deficit. So, in the name of lowering the deficit, you want to extend those tax cuts, which increases the deficit and would not be off-set by the tax increase that you were talking about.”

Quite right. Republicans were offering a hopelessly insane deal: they’d trade $250 billion in new revenue for $3.7 trillion in less revenue, thus making the debt bigger, not smaller. Asked to explain this, Kyl changed the subject.

Eventually, the Republican leader summarized his perspective:

“If you really want to get serious about the deficit, our country has to grow economically. We have to put people back to work. That’s what creates wealth that can be taxed. We’re not going to tax our way out of this, we need to grow. And you can’t grow if you raise taxes in the middle of a recession. That’s what President Obama said when, when unemployment was at 9 percent a few months ago. He said don’t raise taxes in a recession. And he’s right. That impairs job creation by taking more money from the very people, primarily small business folks, who will create most of the jobs coming out of the recession.”

This, to my mind, effectively gives away the store: Republicans weren’t willing to raise taxes on anyone by any amount. The details matter and Kyl doesn’t know what he’s talking about — Dems wanted new tax revenue to kick in starting in 2013, not now — but the overarching point is that Democrats wanted a balanced debt-reduction package, which included shared sacrifice, and Republicans didn’t.

Kyl’s understanding of economics is woefully incomplete, but that’s not the most meaningful aspect of his on-air comments — he made it clear GOP members weren’t willing to make concessions on taxes. They feel like they had a good reason to be inflexible, but that doesn’t change the inflexibility.

One side wanted a deal that would require concessions from both sides, with the very wealthy to shoulder some of the burden, and one side didn’t. That’s what happened. It’s what caused the failure, and all the Republican spinning and lazy reporting won’t change this basic reality.

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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  • c u n d gulag on November 21, 2011 8:06 AM:

    John Kyl is a fine looking Senator.

    But I'd rather have a horse sitting there, than this horses ass!

    In a Senate full of crazy MFers, Kyl's got the distinction of also being the dumbest of the MFers.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on November 21, 2011 8:11 AM:

    And there was superdouchebag Grover -just-some-random-guy- Norquist on Sixty Minutes declining to indicate how his altruistic little band of lobbyists is funded. Who Us?
    Can You spell Kochsucker Grover?
    Explain to me again how a non -elected entity comes to have so much influence on American policy.
    Money?
    OOOOOOHHH that money we say in our best Edith Bunker impression

  • DAY on November 21, 2011 8:12 AM:

    "It's the end of the world as we know it."
    And I feel fine.
    Bush tax cuts set to expire- AS SCHEDULED.

    First Lady and Jill Biden booed at NASCAR event.
    Thousands riot in Egypt. But you need to watch al jazeera to see it.
    OWS begin march to DC. But you need the internet to see it.

  • j on November 21, 2011 8:14 AM:

    Isn't life grand in America, the super rich are so rich they do not know what to buy next - perhaps a new mansion or jewelry from Tiffanys. The poor and elderly are getting poorer and hungrier and are lacking in health care. The republicans want to continue the tax cuts for the rich that helped create this mess and in the meantime they want to cut more from the elderly. I should add that we pepper spray our elderly these days!
    Stupid Willy Geist on Morning joke just said the super committee failed because democrats would not put cuts to social security and medicare on the table. What planet have we become?

  • Danp on November 21, 2011 8:14 AM:

    Here's a prediction. After the Joint Selecting Committee declares failure, S&P or Moody's will lower bond ratings. They might wait until after the trigger is repealed, but the point is Republicans are determined to make things worse. OK, Joe Manchin, too.

  • lou on November 21, 2011 8:15 AM:

    On those Bush tax cuts. The democrats on the committee were in favor of rescinding the tax cuts only on millionaires or those making over $250,000. This would have reduced the deficit from taxes alone by about $800 billion. So, a more complete picture on this is not about losing $3.7 trillion in revenues, but maybe $800 billion.

    If we really are serious about this $3.7 trillion dollars in lost revenues then we need to rescind the Bush tax cuts on everyone. This should have been the dems proposal from the get go. If they had any balls this should have been forced on the GOP years ago to pay for the wars.

    Let the Bush tax cuts go!

  • sjw on November 21, 2011 8:17 AM:

    Obama could call a news conference today and make this story the lede on the news broadcasts this evening; he could double down with interviews at this same time.

    He could but he won't. It's not his style. Unfortunately, the Democrats specifically, and the country generally, suffer as a result.

  • just bill on November 21, 2011 8:21 AM:

    sick-n-effn-tired: you win the internets today with that comment.

  • berttheclock on November 21, 2011 8:23 AM:

    "a few months ago" No, Senator Mule, he said that in '09 to Chuck Todd. However, he added, which keeps getting deleted from RepuG sound bites, that he would increase taxes after the recession ended. You and your ilk want the recession to continue until you have control of both houses and the presidency. Of course, you will never raise any taxes on your Super Pac contributors. But, then, you will be able to work on ways to get all Americans back to work, by overturning Roe v. Wade, destroying government unions, abolishing public education, and demanding all households in the USA to permanently display huge placards on their front lawns, "One Nation Under God". Those are surefire methods of creating jobs.

  • Anonymous on November 21, 2011 8:24 AM:

    Steve, could you please write a piece with a few short, succinct points about the super-committee failure that we can use as talking points? Part of our problem is getting facts down to soundbytes. We know the mainstream media isn't going to explain the failure fairly -- we have to do it.

    In fact, it would be great if liberal bloggers would do this about every issue where the media doesn't do its job -- you could collaborate with each other -- to create terminology that gets the message across.

  • berttheclock on November 21, 2011 8:24 AM:

    "a few months ago" No, Senator Mule, he said that in '09 to Chuck Todd. However, he added, which keeps getting deleted from RepuG sound bites, that he would increase taxes after the recession ended. You and your ilk want the recession to continue until you have control of both houses and the presidency. Of course, you will never raise any taxes on your Super Pac contributors. But, then, you will be able to work on ways to get all Americans back to work, by overturning Roe v. Wade, destroying government unions, abolishing public education, and demanding all households in the USA to permanently display huge placards on their front lawns, "One Nation Under God". Those are surefire methods of creating jobs.

  • imjustsayin on November 21, 2011 8:26 AM:

    It would have been thoughtful of David Gregory to remind the Senator that, according to the CBO, we're no longer in a recession, we're in a recovery. Nevertheless it's still depressing that Washington is so polarized that once again Republicans are taking us to the brink of 1929 all over again. History can and will repeat itself if we don't get our country moving forward again.

  • berttheclock on November 21, 2011 8:28 AM:

    Sorry for the double post - CAPTCHA was not very playful, this AM.

    Putting together this Super Committee was akin to listening to "Oh, Happy We" from "Candide".

  • SYSPROG on November 21, 2011 8:31 AM:

    The GOP thinks they are going to win all three branches of govt. next year so there is 'nothin' in it for them'. It's up to US to whip their ass.

  • square1 on November 21, 2011 8:31 AM:

    I'm not sure why Benen is treating the best possible outcome as a failure.

    One side wanted a deal that would require concessions from both sides, with the very wealthy to shoulder some of the burden, and one side didnít.

    Yes, but that is what is going to happen if Congress does nothing. The Bush tax cuts will sunset, the previously negotiated spending cuts will be triggered, and the deficit will be slashed over ten years.

    The super committee was never likely to produce a combination of tax increases and spending cuts that was more favorable than what is going to kick in automatically. So why all the handwringing over this "failure"?

  • lou on November 21, 2011 8:37 AM:

    "So why all the handwringing over this "failure"?"

    Just keeping score.

    It is good to question, even the partisans on your own side.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on November 21, 2011 9:24 AM:

    Kyl was a local TV announcer-reader before getting into politics. Now, watch your local TV news everybody, peer into their eyes and ask yourself: Does this person understand economics? the fiscal U.S.? climate change? Hahahahahahaha..., but to hear a Republican talk, they sure do come off cocksure about everything of which they speak, don't they?

  • bherlihy42 on November 21, 2011 9:26 AM:

    As any GOPer will tell you, there are three times you NEVER raise taxes: when you're in a recession, when you're in a recovery, and when it's a day ending in "Y".

  • berttheclock on November 21, 2011 9:37 AM:

    Ted Knight was supposed to have based his character "Ted Baxter" on Jerry Dunphy and George Putnam, one a dunce and the other a far right winger on local LA TV. So, did Kyl base his work on Ted Baxter?

  • Anonymous on November 21, 2011 10:07 AM:

    you are slightly wrong.

    Republicans know that tax needs to be raised. But they don't want to raise taxes on the top earners.
    Look at their proposals in the past:

    raise government service fees,
    get rid of tax deductions which used largely by middle classes,
    flatten the brackets to 3 from 6.
    eliminate income tax and put on flat sale tax.

    They just don't want progressive taxes that favor the middle income and poor.
    They are very much favor for raising taxes in other ways that are "fair" or "flat".

    Remember they are against payroll tax cut for every worker except for the top 5%?

  • Christian Doering on November 21, 2011 11:20 AM:

    Kyl's knowledge of economics is probably not as "woefully incomplete" as you state, and if it were, there are plenty of people who would be willing to fill in the blanks. He's not interested in understanding anything, nor are any Republicans currently in office who don't live in Maine. These people are interested in maintaining their place in the chain of command, and they earn that place by saying what they are told to say by those who paid to put them in office (or in other cases, in an office in a "think tank" or a university). Kyl's been told to say that cutting taxes on rich people creates jobs, that rich people own small businesses (they may own them but they don't start or operate them) and that small businesses create jobs (unfortunately, large corporations perform better in that regard). All lies in the service of power: grabbing and holding power is all these people care about. They don't bother to realize that power in selfish and ignorant hands is destructive: they just want the selfish and ignorant hands to be their own.

  • Cantank on November 21, 2011 3:13 PM:

    Why doesn't someone do the math? According to Sen. Kyl, the Bush Tax Cuts of $3.7 trillion can't be cut because they would "stop growth" and that the money that is made by keeping this money in the hands of the "job creators". So, how much would that be? Quick back-of-the-envelope calculations tell me that the average effective tax rate is around 20%, plus or minus the trickle-down effect. So, does this mean that the subsidy of $3.7 trillion will create $12 trillion or so in actual benefits? Somebody please do these numbers, please!

  • Texas Aggie on November 22, 2011 1:40 AM:

    The republican insistence that raising taxes during a recession is bad is yet another example of their inability to hold two thoughts in their minds at the same time. (What is it with their minds? They also can't deal with reality in the form of climate change or evolution.) One thought that they can't get their minds around is that taxes hurt the economy during a recession only if it means removing money from the functioning economy, money that otherwise would be spent on goods and services to create demand.

    Another thought they can't get their minds around is that taxing people who aren't spending money, but rather are burying it in money market accounts, bond funds, and off shore accounts diverts that money from essentially being buried in the backyard or under the mattress to being spent in the economy through government stimulus programs. Paying that money to people who will spend it HELPS the economy.

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