What’s considered extreme in the debt talks

The congressional Republicans’ hostage strategy is pretty straightforward: Democrats are expected to offer a debt-reduction package that pleases GOP officials or Republicans will crash the economy on purpose. In the Dems’ latest effort to pay the ransom, they’ve offered to slice $2.4 trillion from the debt over the next decade — $2 trillion in 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.

With that in mind, it’s worth appreciating what Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) recommends. From a speech he delivered on the floor yesterday:

“Mr. President, please listen to the overwhelming majority of the American people who believe that deficit reduction must be about shared sacrifice. The wealthiest Americans and the most profitable corporations in this country must pay their fair share. At least 50 percent of any deficit reduction package must come from revenue raised by ending tax breaks for the wealthy and eliminating tax loopholes that benefit large, profitable corporations and Wall Street financial institutions. A sensible deficit reduction package must also include significant cuts to unnecessary and wasteful Pentagon spending.”

Sanders believes, if there’s going to be a debt-reduction plan, half the savings should come from taxes and half from spending cuts. And some of those cuts should come from the massive defense budget. If you put this to a poll, I imagine a large chunk of the public would consider this pretty reasonable.

With that in mind, think about how ridiculously skewed the debate has become: Sanders’ blueprint is considered so incredibly radical, it’s not even a remote possibility. The Washington Post mentioned in passing this morning that Sanders’ approach simply has “no chance of passing.”

We have a Democratic Senate and a Republican House, but the notion of an equitable, 50-50 split is thought of as fanciful nonsense backed only by liberal extremists. When Republicans demand a 100-0 split in their favor, meanwhile, and failure to do so will mean they cause a recession on purpose, this is somehow just routine and predictable.

I suspect if a senator suggested a 100-0 split in the other direction — no job-killing spending cuts, only tax increases — GOP officials would simply faint, en masse, at the very idea.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.