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Republicans On the Anti-Tax Ledge

Here’s just another reason why I’m not buying this about-face from Republicans on $1 trillion in tax increases, which would be needed to secure the “going big” deal hoped for by Barack Obama. If you open your Wall Street Journal editorial page, as I’m sure you do every day, you will see an op-ed by Jim DeMint about a balanced budget amendment. No surprise there, it must be Thursday. But the co-author of this particular op-ed is Olympia Snowe.

Whatever happens when President Obama meets with congressional leaders of both parties at the White House today, no long-term solution is on the table for the spending habits in Washington that have endangered the prosperity of future generations. With our federal debt exceeding $14 trillion—nearly 100% of our gross domestic product—fiscal calamity is jeopardizing our standard of living and undermining our national security. And President Obama recently requested that we add an additional $2.4 trillion to our debt.

There has to be another way, and there is. Republicans in the Senate are united in our concern about our nation’s fiscal future. Before we consider saddling our children with even more debt, we must enact significant spending cuts and enforceable caps on future spending. For the long term, to prevent both this Congress and its successors from hijacking the promise of American prosperity, we also need a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, like the one we and all 47 Senate Republicans have introduced.

I don’t want to wade through the morass of lies and misinformation in this op-ed. You have the “government budgets are like family budgets” lie (so I guess we should take out a 30-year loan that’s much bigger than our yearly income, like families do when they buy a house, right?). You have the neglect of explaining where the budget deficit comes from – wars, the recession and the Bush tax cuts. But none of that is important. The key is that 47 members of the Senate, all of them, including Olympia Snowe, have signed on to a balanced budget amendment that would render even Paul Ryan’s extreme budget unconstitutional.

Republicans have stepped out onto a maximalist ledge, and their position allows no room for compromise of the nature of a $1 trillion tax increase. Heck, their base allows them no room. Republican primary voters have become more and more ideological over the years, and anyone who doesn’t toe the line will be taken out. This is a party on the precipice of inciting a default event, a loss of the full faith and credit of the US government, which could trigger a total financial catastrophe, and they have no backup plan. They have not put together a stopgap bill, betting everything that the other side will cave and they will get everything they want from the negotiations.

Maybe they’re right about that. But that’s why I don’t believe in this scaling up of the debt limit deal is in any way realistic. Scaling down sounds more plausible.

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David Dayen

David Dayen