We are governed by people who simply cannot get their act together. This is true of both sides in the debt negotiations, but what is particularly vexing is that Republicans must understand the cognitive dissonance that anyone following these negotiations is experiencing. For starters, when you read the Staff Commentary Executive Summary of the Joint Economic Committee, you see that the Republican Party based its projections for debt negotiation on a study authored by Andrew Biggs, Kevin Hassett, and Matt Jensen. That study, A Guide for Deficit Reduction in the United States Based on Historical Consolidations That Worked, found that deficit reductions containing a ratio of 85% cuts to 15% tax increases were successful.
The significance of this is that the Democrats came to the table with a mix of 83% cuts and 17% tax increases, only to be rebuffed by the Republicans, who got up and walked out of the negotiations altogether. Not only that, the Republicans then proceeded to demand that tax increases be taken off the table altogether.
Let us consider that the Republicans want $2.4 trillion over 10 years in spending reductions, and let us consider how laughable such cuts are when you realize that an average deficit over the next ten years is projected to be over $1.5 trillion annually. Simply put, the debt negotiations are a political chip and a sham. At a time when we ought to be entertaining the elimination of entire federal departments, we're talking about mere spending cuts over a decade that will be rendered meaningless within a year's time.
Neither side is serious about debt reduction, but both sides are deadly serious about making political hay, even if it roils world credit markets and results in the United States defaulting on its debt. Even if we are faced with a default, nothing will change: both sides will dig their heels in even deeper. The Democrats will crow about the pressing necessity for new tax hikes, and the Republicans will insist on even deeper spending cuts. Gridlock is our destiny in this country, no matter who prevails in this fight over the debt. We have a government of churlish, childish nihilists who don't give a damn about anything beyond their short term political prospects.
An 83% to 17% ratio of cuts to tax increases was a fine point that indicated real progress in the debt negotiations, but the Republican reaction does not bode well for our future prospects. You don't take a day off on this issue. You don't go into recess as the House will do, and you don't walk out of a negotiation two points away from your ostensible goal. $2 trillion in spending cuts over a ten year period with a Democratic majority in the Senate is nothing to walk out on, and the Republicans ought to be flogged at the polls if these talks fail to produce a resolution. While the overall effect is meaningless given our annual deficits, change is incremental and $2 trillion in cuts this year would have been a start on even more cuts next year and the year afterwards.
Can you imagine an energized Republican base at the polls in 2012 with $2 trillion in spending reductions and the prospect of even more in 2012 and beyond? Walking out of the negotiations was an incredibly stupid and immature gesture by the Republicans, and those of us who have flogged them towards getting serious about debt reduction should be incensed. The Republicans were two percentage points away from the target, and they chose to try and move the goalposts in a way that could very well end of up becoming the Pence Amendment of debt negotiations.
The time has come for the Tea Party and libertarian Republicans to begin flogging the GOP back to the table, and every one of us who lit up the phones for health care reform should be doing the same over debt negotiations. No time off, no vacations, no recesses, get the job done for this year and make progress for the future. It's time for the Republicans to understand that this is not a political game; rather, it is the future of this country.
With fully half of the country not bearing any federal tax burden whatsoever, the idea that $400 billion in tax increases versus $2 trillion in spending cuts is onerous is laughable. At most, the Republicans can put themselves in a position to sell $2 trillion in debt reduction progress to the electorate as a means of gaining majorities that would then repeal any and all of the $400 billion in tax increases while cutting government spending even more. The Republican Circus suffers from an epidemic of myopia, if their performance of late during the debt negotiations is any indicator.