Tuesday, November 22, 2011


From: Ezra Klein, in the Washington Post ("Wonkbook," Nov 23 2011)

The supercommittee's failure was finalized yesterday, and so today is the day we figure out who to blame. President Obama was clear in his remarks last night: The gridlock was the Republicans' fault. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the Republican co-chair of the supercommittee, is clear in the Wall Street Journal this morning: the Democrats deserve the blame. My colleague Michael Gerson, meanwhile, says it was Obama.

If by "at fault" we mean "unwilling to compromise," we can do better than listen to the self-serving remarks of the players.  [. . .] And if you look at the numbers, it's pretty easy to see which party moved further towards a compromise.

The final Boehner plan envisioned tax reform that would generate $800 billion in new revenues and bring the top rate down to 35 percent. In the supercommittee, the highest Republicans ever got on taxes was the Toomey plan's $300 billion, with envisioned a top rate of 28 percent. So on taxes, it's fairly clear: The supercommittee Republicans were far to the right of Boehner.

On the Democratic side, Obama eventually insisted on somewhere near $1.2 trillion in tax reform or, if the revenues were to move lower, on much less in entitlement cuts. In the supercommittee, the Democrats offered a plan (pdf) with less than a trillion dollars in tax reform -- and more entitlement reforms than Obama was willing to agree to.

Boehner had about $150 billion in Medicare beneficiary cuts in his opening bid in the negotiations with the president, and he went down from there. In the supercommittee, Baucus offered $200 billion in Medicare beneficiary cuts. Supercommittee Republicans were far beyond that, however. [. . .]

Frankly, it's hard to find even one area in which supercommittee Republicans offered a substantially new compromise -- or even matched what Boehner offered Obama. [. . .] . . . if the question is whether the Democrats or the Republicans moved further in the direction of a compromise, there's no doubt that compared to the last set of negotiations, the Democrats moved right and the Republicans moved further right.