WASHINGTON -- The blame game is a dreary and generally unproductive exercise. But as Washington slouches toward the self-inflicted wound of the budget sequester, Republicans' determined effort to rewrite the history of debt reduction requires correcting.
My short version of apportioning blame for the current mess is this: The Obama administration is guilty of bad negotiating in pursuit of sensible policy. Congressional Republicans are guilty of exploiting the president's bad negotiating in pursuit of terrible policy.
Let's quickly dispense with the sideshow of the sequester's parentage. It makes no difference, no matter how many times Republicans decry "the president's sequester."
First, the Obama administration came up with the mechanism precisely because Republicans deemed unacceptable a sequester that included automatic increases in tax revenue.
The underlying concept, from Democrats' view, was never to implement the $1.2 trillion through spending cuts alone. Rather, the threat of sequester was to be leverage for a blend of spending cuts and tax increases. Sequester is happening because Republicans in the supercommittee balked at raising adequate revenue.
Second, no matter whose brainchild it was, Republicans voted for a deal that included the sequester as the enforcement mechanism. They can't now disown their vote by insisting it was the other guy's idea.
So how did we arrive at sequester's doorstep?
Republicans' truncated version of history would have time begin with last year's deal on the "fiscal cliff." In this account, Republicans gave in on tax revenue then, agreeing to raise rates on the tiniest sliver of taxpayers -- households making more than $450,000 a year in exchange for making the Bush tax cuts permanent for everyone else.
The bottom line, compared to extending the tax cuts in their entirety, is another $620 billion in revenue over 10 years, $737 billion when interest savings on the lower debt are taken into account. This concession is now deemed to be the end of the tax affair.
"The tax debate is now closed," House Speaker John Boehner proclaimed in The Wall Street Journal.
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