Kyl’s candid confession

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.