Reihan Salam Distills the Emerging Conventional Wisdom on the Center-Right

Reihan Salam writes today about Sen. Chuck Schumer’s “remarkable” appearance on Fox News this Sunday opposite an “impressively pragmatic” Bob Corker. What’s remarkable, says Salam, is that Schumer insisted on seeing a Republican proposal for entitlement cuts:

[Chris Wallace] 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.

I guess that would be neat, if it were true. But no one is suggesting that Republicans have to preemptively cave in on taxes and only then will we begin discussing spending cuts. It’s a negotiation. President Obama has produced a detailed opening offer that includes about $1.6 trillion in tax increases and $400 billion in spending cuts beyond the $1.5 trillion agreed to last year. Republicans didn’t like it. That’s no surprise. The next step, then, is to hear the Republican counteroffer. So far, though, we’ve heard only crickets.

I’m stumped about what conservatives expect here. Now that Republicans have rejected Obama’s proposal, do they think he should simply come up with another one? And when they say no again, yet another one? Then another. And another. Until, finally, they say yes? That doesn’t even make sense.

If Republicans want to cut structurally reform Medicare and Social Security, they should put a proposal on the table and let CBO score each of its elements. Ditto for the president’s proposal. Then they can start horsetrading. But what kind of trade can Democrats make if they don’t even know what Republicans want?