Republicans Quit Debt Negotiations Because 5:1 Cuts-To-Taxes Ratio Wasn't Good Enough

June 28, 2011 1:42 pm ET — Alan Pyke

Ezra Klein points to a tidbit from the Wall Street Journal on what caused Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) to walk out on debt reduction talks with the White House last week, and it's a blood-boiler:

A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Vice President Joseph Biden had agreed on cuts that total about $1 trillion over 10 years, participants say. They were shooting for about $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction, but when Democrats insisted about $400 billion in tax increases be considered, the Republicans walked out.

"It would be the worst medicine possible for our ailing economy," said Sen. Jon Kyl (R,. Ariz.), one of the Republican negotiators.

$2.4 trillion in deficit reduction with only "about $400 billion in tax increases" is a ratio of $5 in cuts for every $1 in revenue increases. 5-to-1. If you're being responsible about steering the ship of state away from default and a market sell-off that would dwarf the recent financial crisis, you don't walk away from a 5-to-1 tradeoff in your favor. But if you're a Republican, you storm out.

President Obama's fiscal commission recommended a 3-to-1 ratio of cuts to revenues, and progressives were rightly wary: We're watching the British economy falter under the weight of an austerity package with a more modest ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases. But President Obama sought to meet Republicans in the middle, and proposed a 3-to-1 package himself. From the GOP's perspective, this reported 5-to-1 ratio is a huge win. Yet they're bailing on the talks. It's almost like they're trying to sabotage things.

Cantor and Kyl were never negotiating in good faith — if you're choosing a sincere negotiating team, the "not intended to be a factual statement" guy and the "I mean, come on" guy don't make your roster — but this should be a coffin nail for the idea that the conservatives are sincere about making a deal.