The stupid is on full display today as the punditry bemoans the death of the Super Congress, mournfully declaring that it was just that both sides were so entrenched in protecting entitlements versus tax increases. So let's just try to inject a little reality into this. First, the always helpful deficit parfait chart from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
That black line at the very bottom, the one that stays pretty damned stable, includes the contribution of things like Medicaid and Medicare entitlements. Not Social Security mind you, because Social Security still doesn't contribute to the deficit. That's a conveniently forgotten fact by everyone who insisted on plopping it down on the negotiating table, Democrat and Republican alike. So yes, the big drivers of the deficit continue to be the Bush tax cuts, the wars and the ongoing economic downturn. But mostly, it's those tax cuts.
Now, let's look at who put what on the table. Ezra Klein does just that.
If by "at fault" we mean "unwilling to compromise," we can do better than listen to the self-serving remarks of the players. We can look hard at the movement in the actual plans. Before the supercommittee, there were the Obama-Boehner negotiations. And we have a pretty good idea of the plan that almost—but didn't quite—clear those discussions. We also have the deals on the plans that were offered in the supercommittee. And if you look at the numbers, it's pretty easy to see which party moved further towards a compromise.
Hint: It's the one that named Sen. Max Baucus as one of its six key negotiators.
The final Boehner plan envisioned tax reform that would generate $800 billion in new revenues and bring the top rate down to 35 percent. In the supercommittee, the highest Republicans ever got on taxes was the Toomey plan's $300 billion, with envisioned a top rate of 28 percent. So on taxes, it's fairly clear: The supercommittee Republicans were far to the right of Boehner. [...]
Boehner had about $150 billion in Medicare beneficiary cuts in his opening bid in the negotiations with the president, and he went down from there. In the supercommittee, Baucus offered $200 billion in Medicare beneficiary cuts. Supercommittee Republicans were far beyond that, however. If you read Hensarling's op-ed today explaining why the committee failed, he complains that Democrats were too focused on tax increases but also that they refused to gut the Affordable Care Act or embrace "architectural changes" like turning Medicare into a premium-support system. You can support those policies or oppose them. They're not exactly compromise plans, however. [...]
[I]f the question is whether the Democrats or the Republicans moved further in the direction of a compromise, there's no doubt that compared to the last set of negotiations, the Democrats moved right and the Republicans moved further right.
No, both sides aren't to blame for failure. That goes entirely to the Republicans. Maybe we should actually be giving credit to them for their refusal to accept the gutted sacred cows Democrats offered up on a silver platter. At this point you almost have to be grateful to Grover Norquist for keeping the Republicans in line and saving entitlement programs, this round.
So how about instead of worrying over who is to blame for killing what was a bad idea in the first place, we put some blame on who is intent upon keeping that deficit high. Look again at the chart up top. Wars and tax cuts and the people who want to keep them going—mostly Republicans, but not entirely (looking at you, Leon Panetta)—deserve all the blame.