Those who won’t take ‘yes’ for an answer

As of last week, the White House was offering congressional Republicans a pretty sweet deal on debt reduction: Dems would agree to slice $2.4 trillion from the debt over the next decade. In all, $2 trillion would come from spending 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. In this proposal, about 17% of the final package would come from tax expenditures, while 83% would come from cuts. Asked for their reaction, congressional Republicans left the room in disgust.

Mike Konczal, however, raises an important point today. In March — of this year, just a few months ago — Republicans on the Joint Economic Committee released a report, hoping to prove that focusing on deficit reduction would lead to economic growth. The quality of the scholarship was ridiculous, and the report, such as it was, quickly ended up in the garbage.

But as Konczal reminds us, Republicans who prepared the report also outlined their ideal cuts-to-revenue ratio.

Even for Republican, this is tough to spin this away. Literally three months ago, the congressional GOP said “successful” attempts at deficit reduction meet this goal: “85% spending cuts and 15% revenue increases.”

That, in effect, is what Dems offered Republicans last week. It’s also what prompted GOP leaders to break off negotiations altogether.

As Ezra Klein explained,” So when the GOP’s economic policy team sat down to make the strongest case they could for growth-inducing deficit reduction, they recommended a mix an 85:15 mix, not a 100:0 mix. And then, when the Obama administration agreed to an 83:17 mix, the Republican leadership walked out of the room and demanded that taxes be excluded from the deal altogether. How do you negotiate with that?”

Exactly. You can’t negotiate with those who refuse to take “yes” for an answer.

That said, if I worked in the West Wing, I’d seize this immediately. Indeed, I’d have Jay Carney tell reporters today that Democrats have “agreed to Republicans’ terms,” and will accept, at the GOP’s behest, exactly the ratio Republicans on the Joint Economic Committee requested in March.

Boehner and McConnell would balk, of course, but I just want them to explain why this ratio was perfectly acceptable in March, but represents job-killing radicalism in June.