November 16, 2011 11:15 am ET - by Matt Finkelstein
The super committee on debt reduction has one week left to formulate a bipartisan plan that can pass Congress, but there is little evidence that the negotiators are making headway. As Politico reports today, "There isn't a shred of bill language circulating publicly and no scent of a bipartisan deal before a Nov. 23 deadline to show the public how a panel granted such sweeping authority is trying to solve America's great fiscal crisis."
This morning on Fox News, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) blamed Democrats alone for the stalemate. Asked whether the super committee's Republicans have license to budge on the Bush tax cuts — which remain the key driver of America's current deficits — Ryan answered, "They already did that." Referring to a recent proposal from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Ryan claimed Republicans have offered a plan to "replace" the Bush tax cuts:
BRIAN KILMEADE (HOST): Both sides seem to want to do tax reform, but you can't do it in five days. So maybe you can do something down the line and promise to do it and cut some type of deal, but in the big picture, Congressman Ryan, Democrats watching right now are saying, 'Will Chairman Ryan ever agree to get rid of the Bush tax cuts?' Will they ever agree to any type of tax increase, even if it isn't as great as they want? Will you show some give there? Has the super committee been empowered to do that?
REP. PAUL RYAN: They already did that. The super committee already did that. Pat Toomey, our senator from Pennsylvania, put together a plan to replace the Bush tax cuts with tax reform. Lower tax rates, broadening the base — meaning getting rid of loopholes — and that actually brings in more revenues. So our negotiators already said let's replace the Bush tax schedule, lower everybody's tax rates, get rid of loopholes and deductions, and you bring in even more revenue to the federal government. More importantly, you grow the economy and create jobs, and that is what we offered and what the Democrats walked away from.
It's true that Toomey's offer is causing some consternation among conservatives, but Ryan's characterization of it is incredibly disingenuous. Toomey's plan would "replace" the Bush tax cuts by permanently enshrining some of their most regressive elements and, in fact, reducing the top tax rate from 35 to 28 percent. The revenues would come largely from ending tax expenditures that benefit the middle class, as a result of which the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities concludes that "taxpayers with incomes below $200,000 would see their tax bills rise, on average."
Yes, Toomey offered to "replace" the Bush tax cuts by making bad policies permanent or more extreme, but nobody should be fooled by Ryan's attempt to sell that as a compromise.
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