The NYT‘s David Brooks said he’s talked to a number of Republicans, in Congress and elsewhere, who are eager “to find a way to reduce the debt without committing political suicide.” I don’t doubt that’s true. The GOP wants to tackle the debt while keeping their seats? As the kids say, “Duh.”
But Brooks’ column intends to be more constructive than merely stating the obvious. Indeed, he offers a suggested course of action the parties could follow to strike a deal on the debt-limit fight.
First, Republicans have to make a grand offer on raising the debt ceiling. This offer should include a bipartisan commitment to reduce the growth of Medicare spending. Republicans need Democratic fingerprints on a plan to restrain entitlements. In exchange, Republicans should offer to raise tax revenues on the rich. They should get rid of the interest deductions on mortgages over $500,000 and on second homes. They should close corporate loopholes and cap the health insurance deduction. […]
Democrats may not agree to this offer…. But if the Republicans made an offer that included revenue increases, they would at least show they are willing to compromise to prevent a national catastrophe. And Democrats might take them up on it.
Well, yes, actually they might.
But let me ask David Brooks a question: are you at all familiar with an entity popularly known as the Republican Party?
Look, Brooks’ suggested compromise is not, on its face, unreasonable. Democrats make concessions on the growth of Medicare spending; Republicans make concessions on taxes/revenue. It’s the sort of plan that at least resembles a workable, bipartisan compromise. It’s not the policy I’d like to see, but I can at least recognize how it would move the ball forward — if a bipartisan debt deal is one’s goal.
But if Brooks thinks the GOP of 2011 would even consider such a proposal, he hasn’t been spending enough time on Capitol Hill. What the columnist is arguing is, in effect, that Republicans become moderate Democrats, and take fiscal responsibility seriously enough to look at both sides of the ledger.
That’s not going to happen. The Republican Party doesn’t have the maturity, the wisdom, or the calculators needed to strike such a deal.
Would it “show they are willing to compromise to prevent a national catastrophe”? Yes. Are they willing to compromise to prevent a national catastrophe? The evidence is elusive.