Today’s Big Fight: Centrist Opinion vs. Centrist Opinion

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Jonathan Chait is annoyed with the Washington Post editorial board, which says today that “neither party has staked out anything like a serious negotiating position” in the sequester talks. For some reason, though, they seem to have forgotten entirely that President Obama has, in fact, staked out a serious position. This is from the Post’s own news pages a few weeks ago:

During the negotiations between Obama and Boehner, the president offered about $900 billion in spending cuts….At the same time, Obama insists tax revenue must be further increased in exchange for spending cuts. The bill approved by Congress this week raised slightly more than $600 billion of revenue over 10 years by raising tax rates. Obama now wants to raise about $600 billion more by limiting tax breaks.

This sounds perfectly serious, unless you consider the very idea of closing loopholes to raise revenue to be self-evidently unserious. And yet, as Chait points out, the Post editorial board doesn’t consider the idea unserious. In fact, they’re basically on board with the idea:

When you hear that “neither party” is addressing an issue, you probably think that one of the parties is the president….In fact, as such places as the Washington Post have reported, Obama is offering to replace the sequester with $600 billion in increased tax revenue plus $900 billion in spending cuts. The Post does not argue that this offer amounts to dangerous, high-tax liberalism. It does not argue that it’s a fair proposal but Obama should go further for the sake of placating Republicans. It doesn’t say Obama’s offer is great but couldn’t pass Congress, or that Obama should instead be making his offer in person, or by handwritten letter, or while gently massaging John Boehner’s bunions. The editorial says nothing at all. It accuses Obama of seeming content to blame Republicans.

“We’re done with revenue,” say the Republicans. They seem to believe that agreeing to extend the Bush tax cuts permanently for everyone except a tiny sliver of rich people just flat-out exhausts any further potential for raising revenue. Obama obviously disagrees, and standard Beltway centrist opinion—for example, the Washington Post editorial board—is basically on Obama’s side. For some reason, though, standard centrist outlets—for example, the Washington Post editorial board—are unwilling to come right out and say so. Why is this? Obama’s position is basically the same as theirs with only the change of a few minor details. Why expend so much effort to pretend otherwise?

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If you're new to Mother Jones or aren't yet sold on supporting our nonprofit reporting, please take a moment to read Monika Bauerlein's post about our priorities after these chaotic several years, and why this relatively quiet moment is also an urgent one for our democracy and Mother Jones’ bottom line—and if you find it compelling, please join us.

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