The Corner

Just the Factitious

Michael Grunwald posts at Time:

If the debt-limit debate had anything to do with reality, every story about it would include a few basic facts. Starting with: President Obama inherited a $1.2 trillion budget deficit. And: Republican leaders supported the tax cuts and wars that (along with the recession, another pre-Obama phenomenon) created that deficit. Also: Republicans engineered this crisis by attaching unprecedented ideological demands to a routine measure allowing the U.S. to pay its bills.  Finally, Obama and the Democrats keep meeting those demands—for spending cuts, then for more spending cuts, and even for nothing but spending cuts—but Republicans keep holding out for more.

These are verifiable facts, not opinions.

So every news story about this dispute must begin with a recitation of “basic facts” that reflect badly on the Republicans, and some of which aren’t true. Why shouldn’t every news story begin by mentioning that the Democrats could have raised the debt ceiling, or abolished it altogether, last year, but chose not to do so in order to force the newly-elected House Republicans to have to face the issue this year? Also, if Obama has agreed to “nothing but spending cuts,” whoever writes his lines hasn’t gotten the memo. Nor do I think that “fake cuts of spending that weren’t going to happen anyway” was high on the list of GOP demands.


Later, he writes:

Republicans created this crisis. They blew up the debt. They refused to raise the debt ceiling without conditions. And because of their internal divisions, they can’t even decide what those conditions should be. They initially demanded a breakdown of 85% spending cuts and 15% revenue increases, before deciding the deal had to be 100% spending cuts.

That’s ridiculous. Follow Grunwald’s link. It’s to a paper by Republican congressional aides that in passing cites a study that concludes that “successful fiscal consolidations averaged 85% spending cuts and 15% revenue increases, while unsuccessful fiscal consolidations averaged 47% spending cuts and 53% revenue increases.” That doesn’t mean that this was the Republicans’ negotiating position. The very next sentence of the staff commentary notes that the study also “show[s] that the degree of success correlates to a larger share of spending cuts.”

He continues:

Some initially praised the bipartisan Gang of Six plan—until Obama endorsed it. Now Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a proposal for 100% spending cuts, all of which Republicans had already endorsed  –until, of course, Reid proposed them.

Have the Republicans who praised the G6 plan taken back their praise? Have any Republicans taken back their endorsement of the cuts in Reid’s plan? If there’s good evidence that Republicans moved the goalposts, it’s not in this fact-free column.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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