Don’t blame both sides: the GOP has offered exactly NOTHING to avoid the fiscal cliff

We’re so used to the Republican Congress doing nothing that now the media and pundits consider that to be something they’re actively “doing.”

Greg Sargent reminds everyone that both sides are not equally to blame in this fiscal cliff / deficit debacle:

There is an actual set of facts here. They are central to understanding the current situation, and belong in every account of what is going wrong:

1) Democrats have offered a comprehensive proposal that meaningfully details the tax hikes they would like to see and contains substantial deficit reduction, but Republican leaders have not offered a comprehensive proposal that meaningfully details the spending cuts they would like to see. And what Republicans have proposed — such as it is — doesn’t contain nearly as much in deficit reduction as the Dem plan does.

2) Many experts believe that substantial deficit reduction simply requires Republicans to drop their opposition to raising tax rates on the rich.

Look, this is just a sucker’s game. What Republicans really mean when they demand that Obama “lead” is that they want him to propose bigger concessions up front so Republicans can denounce them as insufficient — which they would do no matter what he proposed — pulling the debate further and further in their direction.

Meanwhile, even as the White House has willingly proposed Medicare cuts, Republicans still refuse to give ground on raising tax rates for the wealthy. (This basic imbalance is not changed, even if you think the White House’s proposed Medicare cuts are insufficient.) So here’s a simple question for any pundit who is tempted to blame both sides equally for the impasse: Can you show us how substantial deficit reduction can be achieved without higher tax rates on the rich? If not, then both sides are not equally to blame.

Sargent adds the following for consideration:

* Why Obama is drawing hard line over tax hikes: It isn’t complicated. Here’s the answer, buried in this morning’s big New York Times analysis of Obama’s “unyielding” stance: In his first four years in office, Mr. Obama has repeatedly offered what he considered compromises on stimulus spending, health care and deficit reduction to Republicans, who either rejected them as inadequate or pocketed them and insisted on more. Republicans argued that Mr. Obama never made serious efforts at compromise and instead lectured them about what they ought to want rather than listening to what they did want.

* Why Republicans refuse to detail the spending cuts they want: Paul Krugman gets to the heart of it: It’s very hard to come up with spending cuts that would seriously reduce the deficit without cutting deeply into very popular programs, which is why Republicans want Dems to go first. The problem, as always, is that cutting spending is popular in the abstract but not when the talk turns to specifics. And this time around, things are different: Because Democrats are the ones with the leverage, they don’t have to acquiesce to the GOP demand that they propose spending cuts first.

* Dems should not get hoodwinked into proposing cuts first: E.J. Dionne makes that argument in his column this morning, and this captures the Republican strategy perfectly:

They seem to hope a deal will be born by way of immaculate conception, with Obama taking ownership of all the hard stuff while they innocently look on.

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