Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Debt Deal Sunk by Untrustworthy Left Not Right-Wing Rigidity

The idea of using the debt ceiling crisis as the lever to enact both long-term entitlement reform as well as a simplification of the tax code was a good one. But the details of the deal House Speaker John Boehner tried to work out with President Obama along these lines turned out to be a bridge too far. While the failure of the talks to achieve a far reaching accord rather than a short-term solution to the debt ceiling is being blamed solely on GOP hardliners, the real problem may have been more a matter of President Obama’s unreliability than Boehner being sandbagged by political purists in his own party.

Boehner’s basic vision for a grand rather than a limited deal on the debt was sound. If the Democrats would agree to drastic cuts in spending on entitlements as well as tax reform, then the result would have been a serious plan to reduce the deficit without growth-killing tax increases. But, as the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page stated succinctly on Saturday, the negotiations fueled suspicions among the Republican leadership, and not just the Tea Party caucus, that the Democrats could not be trusted to enact bold tax reform once they had already pocketed tax increases. Unless both parts of the deal were enacted simultaneously, there was no reason either President Obama or recalcitrant congressional Democrats would fulfill their part of the bargain. So rather than rabid right-wingers being to blame for the situation, it may have been liberal Democrats, who had no interest in a deal that would force them to give up their demagogic attacks on the GOP on entitlements, who were at fault.

There’s no question many on the right were skeptical about Boehner’s proposal. Some purists believe the expansion of the debt ceiling for any reason is illegitimate since it means continuing to live beyond our means and that any deal would just feed the government monster. Others thought any rise in government revenues was immoral. But were the two ends of this compromise enacted together rather than in a staggered fashion, I think Boehner would have been able to carry the vast majority of his caucus with him.

But since the deal is so complicated, doing it all at once was improbable if not impossible. And that meant that tax reform would have gone last. That meant trusting not only Obama but also House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to help push it through after everything else was done. Given that the Democrats don’t believe in this vision and have partisan reasons for sabotaging a deal that would prevent them from ranting about evil Republicans throwing grandma over the cliff, the GOP had good reason to be distrustful.

Sooner or later, Congress will have to enact the sort of far reaching entitlement cuts and tax reform that Boehner wanted. It would have been better for the country if it had happened now rather than in the future. But the blame for this delay deserves to be pinned as much, if not more, on untrustworthy Democrats as on hard line Republicans.



Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.