Democrats have repeatedly sought a compromise deal on the debt. Why blame the whole city for Republican intransigence?
Watching yesterday's Sunday shows was a reminder that, of all the bromides that are popular among D.C. pundits, few are as durable, or pervasive, as moral equivalence. No debt deal means that Washington is broken. Politicians can't govern. Neither side will compromise. As Newark Mayor Cory Booker put it to his fellow members of the "Meet the Press" roundtable, "Americans ... are frustrated by the partisanship being put before progress." But is everybody putting partisanship before progress?
Anyone who studies the federal budget recognizes that two-thirds of it, in the form of "mandatory spending" (Social Security and, especially, Medicare and Medicaid), is what's driving the long-run debt problem in America. The remaining third that is "discretionary spending" (a majority of which is on defense, but which also includes food safety, environmental protection, aid to education, science and medical research, homeland security, et cetera, et cetera) will not grow nearly as fast, and has almost nothing to do with deficits.
And so, when a Democratic president, who cares about discretionary spending, and who knows it's not a significant source of red ink, offers a massive $1 trillion cut to that spending, that is a real compromise. When President Obama also offers $650 billion in entitlement cuts over 10 years -- cuts that would hurt his party's constituents and anger his strongest supporters, that is a real compromise. When the White House offers hundreds of billions less in new revenue than any of the three (rather center-right) bipartisan budget proposals on the table -- indeed, offers almost $4 in spending cuts for every $1 in new revenue -- that is a real compromise.