The President, in Rolling Stone:
Well, on the economic front, their only agenda seems to be tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. If you ask their leadership what their agenda will be going into next year to bring about growth and improve the job numbers out there, what they will say is, “We just want these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, which will cost us $700 billion and which we’re not going to pay for.”
Now what they’ll also say is, “We’re going to control spending.” But of course, when you say you’re going to borrow $700 billion to give an average $100,000-a-year tax break to people making a million dollars a year, or more, and you’re not going to pay for it; when Mitch McConnell’s overall tax package that he just announced recently was priced at about $4 trillion; when you, as a caucus, reject a bipartisan idea for a fiscal commission that originated from Judd Gregg, Republican budget chair, and Kent Conrad, Democratic budget chair, so that I had to end up putting the thing together administratively because we couldn’t get any support — you don’t get a sense that they’re actually serious on the deficit side.
This seems to be a plausible line on which to wage the close of the campaign. Boehner’s Republican Party successfully played the Fabian strategy into the late-game, refusing to put a set of policy options on the table until it’s almost too late for anything to seep into the collective mind of the electorate. Instead, he let rage build against the administration’s perceived ignorance of the budget issue. Without any alternative to compare the President to, voters could inflect their hopes and dreams onto the GOP’s blank slate.
A slate, of course, that is now populated by a plan that hides its basic impossibility in plain sight (pdf):
With common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops, we will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone and putting us on a path to balance the budget and pay down the debt. We will also establish strict budget caps to limit federal spending from this point forward.
Such “common-sense exceptions” will unhinge their jaw, and swallow whole the rule. Boehner’s bet is that the public isn’t sufficiently intelligent, engaged, or aware to grasp the problem. Sadly, that bet may pay — watching this video, one gets the impression the devastated Fox host actually thinks he won — but the Democrats should take the short side. We’re in a place now where we have to fight an electoral war to prove that a modern democracy can responsibly discuss fiscal policy, and that war can no longer be postponed.
Meeting Republicans on the merits may be an uphill battle, not because we’re wrong, but because the Republicans won’t defend the Pledge. They expect to win on emotion, not logic, so we will arrive at this Cannae to find the field deserted. But making the argument may bleed more sensitive voters from the Republican ranks, and create situations where we can provoke, and the enemy noisily decline, the pitched battle that they’d lose. We have to bet that logic still matters. It’s a losing bet so far, but sometimes, you have to roll the hard six.