Ben White of Politico’s Morning Money points out a piece by Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post where he calls for both Republicans and Democrats to suck it up and accept outcomes they don’t like around the debt ceiling and reducing the deficit. Robinson:
Democrats are right that this is a terrible moment for spending cuts. Republicans are right that this is an awful moment for tax increases. The only reasonable thing to do is kick the can down the road – but in a purposeful, intelligent way. … Republicans must swallow an increase in the debt ceiling, and Democrats must accept painful spending curbs that kick in when the economy is off its sickbed. It means conservatives have to be patient in bringing expenditures down and progressives have to be patient in returning tax rates – even for the wealthy – to what many of us consider appropriate levels.” [Emphasis added]
Eugene, that is not a compromise. There are two areas of debate here – the first is if we should raise the debt ceiling and if so, by how much. The second is what should the federal government do to reduce the budget deficit. The GOP has sought to tie these together and by all accounts has been completely successful. But as long as the sober outcome and outcome demanded by Wall Street happen to be raising the debt ceiling, it’s hard for me to think about this as truly paired in the way the GOP is trying to get this done.
In that light, Robinson’s proposal is not a compromise any Democrat should think about accepting. If Democrats have to concede that Republicans will not allow a tax hike on the rich to close the deficit gap, then the appropriate Republican compromise would be that they would not get to cut spending on social programs to close the deficit gap. Or to put it differently, we just raise the debt ceiling now and deal with the deficit afterwards! Republicans accepting raising the debt ceiling isn’t a compromise, it’s an economic necessity and it must be treated as such, otherwise the GOP will get what they want and be allowed to hold a gun to the US economy and say, “Cut Medicare or the economy gets it!”
I don’t know why the administration and congressional Democratic leadership aren’t out there making the case that there must be a clean debt ceiling vote, that they will fight for raising it, and then we can deal with the deficit. That would be a sober way to kick the can down the road. Instead we’re having a debate with a Polish hostage and it isn’t going well for the rest of us.