By now we have all heard the latest in the months-long debate over reducing the nation’s deficit — barring a last-minute miracle, the congressional super committee tasked with finding at least $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction will fail to come to an agreement. Cue handwringing by pundits lamenting the inability of both Democrats and Republicans to compromise.
The notion that both sides share in the blame is an easy line for commentators to repeat, but it isn’t true. Time and time again, the only thing preventing an agreement on long-term deficit reduction has been the Republicans’ absolute refusal to consider any tax increases on high-income households as part of the solution. Michael Linden and I created a timeline of major events in the past six months of deficit talks:
- February 14, 2011: President Barack Obama submits budget for 2012 with about $2 trillion in deficit reduction, half of which come from spending cuts.
- April 15, 2011: House passes Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget, which includes $5.8 trillion in spending cuts along with tax cuts for the richest Americans.
- May 5, 2011: Vice President Joe Biden begins debt talks.
- May 11, 2011: Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) says he will not raise debt limit without spending cuts that match how much the limit is raised.
- June 23, 2011: Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) walks away from debt ceiling talks with Biden after refusing to consider any tax increases. The administration had offered $2.4 trillion in spending cuts for $400 billion in taxes, an 83:17 split.
- July 7, 2011: Obama and Boehner begin debt-ceiling negotiations.
- July 9, 2011: Boehner walks away from Obama’s “grand bargain”: $4 trillion in debt reduction comprised of $1 trillion in revenue and $3 trillion in spending cuts, including entitlement reforms.
- July 19, 2011: The Gang of Six proposes a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan, including $2 trillion in revenue.
- July 22, 2011: Again, Boehner walks away from negotiations after Obama offers $1.2 trillion in revenues and $1.6 trillion in spending cuts, including entitlements.
- July 31, 2011: Debt ceiling agreement is reached, cutting $1 trillion in spending immediately and establishing the super committee to reduce deficits by at least an additional $1.2 trillion.
- October 26, 2011: Democrats first super committee offer is $3 trillion in deficit reduction comprised of about $1.3 trillion in revenues and $1.7 trillion in spending cuts, including cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Republicans immediately reject it. Republicans’ first super committee offer is $2.2 trillion in deficit reduction, which includes no new tax revenues.
- November 8, 2011: Republicans’ second super committee offer is $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. It does include $300 billion in new tax revenue, but in exchange for extending the Bush tax cuts and lowering the top tax rate. The plan would ultimately cut taxes for the wealthy and raise them for everyone else.
- November 10, 2011: Democrats’ second offer is $2.3 trillion in deficit reduction, consisting of $1.3 trillion in spending cuts and $1 trillion in revenue. The revenue would be split between $350 billion in concrete measures and $650 billion in future tax reform. Republicans reject it.
- November 11, 2011: Democrats agree to Republicans’ top lines including just $400 billion in revenues and $875 billion in spending cuts, but refuse to accept the GOP’s tax cut for the rich. Republicans reject it and make their final offer: $640 billion in spending cuts and $3 billion in revenues.
What this timeline shows is just how much Democrats have been willing to bend, only to have Republicans reject very generous offers. Back in June, Democrats reportedly offered a mere $400 billion in tax increases as part of a $2.4 trillion deficit reduction package — a 83:17 ratio of spending cuts to tax increases. Republicans said no.
And they haven’t budged an inch since then, stubbornly insisting that any deficit reduction package consist entirely of spending cuts. Even after Democrats on the super committee agreed to the Republican top line of $400 billion in revenues, Republicans refused to make a deal.
Looking at all the offers rejected by Republicans, it comes as no surprise that the super committee will not reach a deal. By rejecting any mix of spending cuts and tax increases, Republicans ensured that there would be no agreement a deficit reduction package.