Noam Scheiber Distills the Emerging Conventional Wisdom on the Center-Left

As a growing number of congressional Republicans conclude that the GOP should allow the high-income rate reductions to expire while extending the bulk of the Bush-era tax cuts and other tax provisions designed to protect disposable income, Noam Scheiber of The New Republic argues that the president must allow all of the Bush-era tax cuts to expire to teach Republicans a lesson. 

Scheiber’s post reminded me of Sen. Charles Schumer’s remarkable appearance on Fox News Sunday this past weekend. Sen. Bob Corker was impressively pragmatic throughout the conversation, and though he recognized that the president had considerable leverage and that it might be appropriate for congressional Republicans to allow the high-income rate reductions to expire, he tried to find common ground on entitlement spending. Schumer took a somewhat different tack:

WALLACE: Well, I mean, in fairness, Senator Corker, Senator Coburn, a bunch of people, Senator Schumer, have said — now, I know it’s not House Speaker Boehner, but on the other hand, you are not President Obama and they have been willing to come out and say, we are willing to raise the tax rates all the way up to the Clinton rate, 39.6 percent, can you give us some specifics of things you would consider cutting both in terms of social programs and entitlement reform?

SCHUMER: Well, the bottom line, Chris, is that would be negotiating against ourselves. President Obama has agreed –


WALLACE: Isn’t that what they just did?

SCHUMER: No. The bottom line is Democrats led by our president, almost uniformly say, here is our $1.2 trillion of getting to the $4 trillion. It’s revenues. It’s up to the Republican leadership, prodded, correctly and boldly, by Senator Corker and others, to say they’ll go along with that and then we’ll start negotiating on the other side. It makes no sense for us to negotiate against ourselves.

The (CROSSTALK) in question pointed out that Schumer is insisting that Republicans make concessions on taxes — that is, that Republicans should “negotiate against themselves” — yet that it is unacceptable for Democrats to do so. Once we get our revenues, we will start “negotiating.” The trouble, of course, is that congressional Republicans will have conceded most of what they can concede, short of waging another battle over the debt limit, to nudge congressional Democrats toward embracing structural entitlement reform. And were congressional Republicans to wage another battle over the debt limit, one assumes that congressional Democrats would characterize Republicans as extremists in need of being taught yet another lesson. It’s all very neat. 

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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