How we can succeed through supercommittee’s ‘failure’

By:  E.J. Dionne Jr.

Here is a surefire way to cut $7.1 trillion from the deficit over the next decade. Do nothing.


That's right. If Congress simply fails to act between now and Jan. 1, 2013, the tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush expire, $1.2 trillion in additional budget cuts go through under the terms of last summer's debt-ceiling deal, and a variety of other tax cuts also go away.

Knowing this, are you still sure that a "failure" by the congressional supercommittee to reach a deal would be such a disaster?

In an ideal world, of course, reasonable members of Congress could agree to a balanced package of long-term spending cuts and tax increases to begin bringing the deficit down, coupled with short-term measures to boost the economy.

But genuine compromise can't happen because Republicans refuse to accept any significant tax increases. This is not a partisan statement. It is just a description of the facts. It is maddening that the media are so desperate to avoid being attacked as "liberal" that they cannot describe the situation as it is.

Democrats have put huge spending cuts on the table - and keep offering more and more and more. All the Democrats ask in return is that the cuts be balanced by some revenue.

By rejecting their offers, Republicans induce Democrats who are anxious for some deal - any deal - to keep coming their way. This approach is wrong and irresponsible but brilliant as a negotiating strategy. As my Post colleague Ezra Klein wrote this week: "Over the past year, Republicans have learned something important about negotiating budget deals with Democrats: If you don't like their offer, just wait a couple of months."

Finally, the Republicans decided they needed to look slightly flexible. So they came up with $300 billion in supposed revenue from a promised tax reform in a plan that also included a proposal to slash tax rates for the rich. There is a lot more tax-cutting here than revenue. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Tex.), the Republican co-chairman of the supercommittee who said Tuesday that this was the GOP's final offer, reversed field Wednesday, declaring himself open to other ideas. 

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