Greg Sargent asked a couple of questions of the deficit hysterics, Questions for the “Blame it on Both Sides” Crowd. But I think he may be a little confused about who he’s talking to.
His first question is reasonable enough, “What is it exactly that you think Obama could do to make Republicans compromise?” This gets to the core of Matt Yglesias’ idea about BipartisanThink. This is the principle that the center is always by definition halfway between the Democrats and the Republicans. So if Obama said we had to replace the Sequester with only tax increases, then the “serious” position would be halfway between that and the Republican position. Thus: half spending cuts and half tax increases. But given that Obama has now compromised and accepted the old “serious” position of half and half, there is a new “serious” position: three-quarter spending cuts and one-quarter tax increases.
Sargent’s second question gets at the absurdity of this BipartisanThink. He wants to know what the deficit scolds actually think. As we all know, they currently think that a mix of spending cuts and tax increases is the right way to go. Thus, they should be complaining that the Republicans are absolutely against even a penny in new taxes. This is where I think Sargent is missing what is really going on. The Very Serious Scolds want the two sides to come together. That position will always be elusive until a deal is reached.
What is horribly, horribly wrong with this idea is that it rewards people who will not compromise. The more one party compromises, the more they lose. Basic psychology should tell the deficit scolds that this only makes reaching a deal harder. And once that deal is reached, it will be far closer to the least reasonable party. Of course, none of that matters to the deficit scolds. If it did, they wouldn’t be deficit scolds. The very idea that reaching any deal is more important than reaching a good deal is ridiculous. As are the deficit scolds.