Understanding the nature of a compromise

I’ve received quite a bit of interesting feedback in response this morning’s post about Republicans refusing to take “yes” for an answer, and there’s one concern in particular I want to tackle.

To briefly summarize, I noted that Republicans created this debt-ceiling crisis, and Democrats have offered plenty of proposals to clean up the mess. So far, literally every offer — a clean bill, a $2.4 trillion debt-reduction package, the “Grand Bargain,” the Gang of Six blueprint, the McConnell/Reid “Plan B” deal — has been rejected by House Republicans as insufficiently right-wing.

Conservatives didn’t especially care for my observation. None of the feedback is appropriate for publication, so I’ll just summarize in my own words the typical response I received from the right:

Oh yeah? Well, Republicans offered their own plan — Cut, Cap, and Balance — and Democrats rejected the GOP’s offer. This just proves that Democrats are at least as inflexible and obstructionist as Republicans. Why can Democrats reject GOP offers without criticism, but Republicans are the bad guys if they reject Democratic offers?”

Let’s take a moment to explain the nature of a compromise.

Democrats, in general, wanted Congress to do what it’s done 89 times in the last 72 years: simply raise the debt ceiling in a clean bill. Republicans refused. Dems then proceeded to come up with a series of alternative plans that, they hoped, might make GOP officials happy. Each plan has included massive spending cuts; some plans have included entitlement cuts; and every plan has tried to achieve “balance” by featuring far more cuts than revenue. To date, none of the offers have been deemed good enough.

It’s true that Republicans presented their own idea — the Cut, Cap, and Balance measure — but no sane person could perceive it as a credible way to strike a bipartisan compromise. We’re talking about a plan that would immediately take $100 billion out of the U.S. economy, eliminating thousands of jobs in the process, en route to trillions more in additional cuts. It would make draconian cuts to key public priorities, including education, infrastructure, and energy. It would gut Social Security and Medicare, and make it almost impossible for any Congress to ever raise taxes on anyone ever again. It goes out of its way to protect tax cuts for the very wealthy, while targeting the most vulnerable. It doesn’t even do an effective job of reducing the deficit, its ostensible point.

This wasn’t an attempt on the part of conservative Republicans to make Dems happy; it was an attempt on the part of conservative Republicans to make themselves happy. There is, in other words, no comparison between Democratic offers to meet the GOP more than half-way, and a Republican offer to give themselves everything they want.

So, yes, while Dems rejected CC&B as transparent nonsense, this doesn’t mean “both sides” are rejecting compromise offers. At this point, only one side has tried to make concessions and present good-faith deals, and I’ll give you a hint, it’s not the Republican Party.