About a month ago, eyeing an end game in the super-committee talks, the parties exchanged “wish lists,” sketching out what both sides wanted from the debt-reduction process.
The results weren’t pretty. Democrats wanted to apply $1 trillion in new tax revenue to debt reduction, and find the resources to pay for the American Jobs Act. Republicans wanted to repeal the entirety of the Affordable Care Act (which would make the debt much worse), approve the Paul Ryan budget agenda (which would add $6 trillion to the debt over the next decade), block grant the Medicaid program, and pass, among other things, tort reform.
Ezra Klein’s summary was helpful.
So Republicans wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, block-grant Medicaid, privatize and voucherize Medicare — in addition to passing everything else in Paul Ryan’s budget. And though it’s not mentioned on this list, Republicans also worked to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, which is to say, they also wanted to pass $3.8 trillion in tax cuts.
Democrats wanted tax increases to make up about a third of the deficit deal — remember we already passed $900 billion in spending cuts back in August. They also wanted passage of a jobs plan that mostly consists of a payroll tax cut, infrastructure investment and expanded unemployment benefits.
Political scientists have a term for when one party is more extreme than the other: “asymmetrical polarization.” This is what it looks like.
Kevin Drum prefers a different description: “I call it ‘negotiating with fanatics.'” He added, “The Republican list is a conservative wet dream. It’s not even remotely a starting point for negotiation. By contrast, the Democratic list is a bog ordinary opening bid.”
What I find impressive — though necessarily surprising — is the extent to which Republicans eyed the debt-reduction process as a debt-expansion process. Eliminating the Affordable Care Act would add a quarter of a trillion dollars to the debt over the next 10 years, and more than a trillion dollars in the decade after that. Ryan’s budget plan, featuring massive tax breaks, adds $6 trillion to the debt over the next decade. Extending Bush-era tax rates adds nearly $4 trillion to the debt over the next decade.
It’s almost as if Republicans had no real interest in lowering the debt at all, and merely saw this process as a mechanism to shrink government to a level at which Grover Norquist could drown it in a bathtub.
Remind me again why we’re supposed to think “both sides” are to blame?
I realize the political world is reluctant to acknowledge this, but the radicalization of the Republican Party remains the most important barrier to quality policymaking in the 21st century. Look again at the wish list submitted by the super-committee’s GOP members and try — just try — to tell me a bipartisan deal was possible.