On the PBS News Hour, Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman and Martin Feldstein, a professor of economy at Harvard University and former chair of Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers, discussed the failure of the Deficit Super Committee (click here for the transcript) :
What stands out is what was not mentioned by either Krugman or Feldstein, the Bush tax cuts, which the Republicans insisted be made permanent in exchange for any tax revenues no matter how meager. In the light of the Republican objection to an extension of the 2% payroll tax cut because of the $250 billion dollar per year cost, it is laughable in the face of the fact that just extending the tax cuts another 10 years would cost $5.4 trillion in revenue losses., four times as much as the payroll tax cuts. But not a peep from either man or the interviewer.
Krugman was correct in stating that the Democrats were far too generous and, as John Aravosis has pointed out in the past, they are lousy negotiators, always starting from their bottom line. However, Dana Milbank in his the Washington Post opinion makes clear that this committee was doomed from the start by the mere presence of one man, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), an immovable object when it comes to tax increases, “doing Norquist’s bidding in killing any notion of higher taxes”:
The sabotage began on the very first day the supercommittee met. While other members from both parties spoke optimistically about the need to put everything on the table, Kyl gave a gloomy opening statement. “I think a dose of realism is called for here,” he said. That same day, he went to a luncheon organized by conservative think tanks and threatened to walk (“I’m off the committee”) if there were further defense cuts.
When Democrats floated their proposal combining tax increases and spending cuts, Kyl rejected it out of hand, citing Republicans’ pledge to activist Grover Norquist not to raise taxes. Kyl’s constant invocation of the Norquist pledge provoked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to snap at Kyl during a private meeting: “What is this, high school?” [..]
Norquist, who worked to defeat a compromise, brags about his control over Kyl. When Kyl made remarks in May that appeared to leave open the possibility of tax increases, Norquist called Kyl and adopted “the tone of a teacher scolding a second grader as he recalled the conversation,” Politico reported. Norquist boasted to the publication that, after he upbraided Kyl, the senator “went down on the floor and he gave a colloquy about how we’re against any tax increases of any sort. Boom!”
It is fairly obvious that the Senate Republicans under the leadership of Sen. Mitch McConnell and Norqist’s Svengali-like control, are willing to risk the stabilization of the economy and kill any job creation bills to defeat President Obama and gain control of both houses. As Aravosis points out in his article today the best that Feldstein could do was blame both parties equally. Perhaps over the next year, the Democrats and President Obama should continue to put forth really bold bills, bolder than the President’s last job proposal, to further demonstrate the intransigence of the Republicans. It might go a long way to shed the image that Democrats are the party of capitulation.