I try not to read David Brooks, but last night, Matt Yglesias tricked me into reading him with this tweet:
I don’t understand what David Brooks is proposing here or why:nytimes.com/2012/12/04/opi…
— Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias) December 4, 2012
So I went ahead and read The Truly Grand Bargain. What Brooks is doing is a bit of a mystery. Normally, I would think he was just admitting that some Republican demands are hopeless. For example, the top marginal tax rate will go up to 39.6% automatically on 1 January. But he isn’t calling for that. Instead, he claims that the Republicans should be, “Willing to see top tax rates go up to 36 percent or 37 percent.” What?!
But it gets worse. He wants major cuts to Medicare and Social Security in exchange for this one or two percentage point increase in the top tax bracket and a one year ceasefire in the Republican war on the United States credit rating, know as the debt ceiling. Dean Baker did some calculations on this offer. He finds that Brooks is asking for a 6% cut to poor retirees’ incomes and in exchange, Brooks is offering a 1.5% cut in the incomes of the rich through tax increases.
Baker notes, “It’s interesting to think about what he would suggest putting on the table if the Republicans had won the election.”
I don’t understand everyone who is claiming that the Republicans should do what Obama wants because the Democrats won the election in a big way. Elections don’t have consequences because anyone has a mandate; they have consequences because someone has power. Obama is not in a better bargaining position because he won the election—at least that isn’t the critical element. He is in this position because the Republicans gave him the power when they assumed he would lose. Now two things are going to happen that the Republicans don’t want: tax increases and military cuts. If these were not coming regardless, Obama’s win would not mean anything in this negotiation.