The proof of the supposed perversity of Grover’s influence is the widely cited hypothetical example of a Democratic offer to cut $10 in spending for every $1 in new tax dollars. In one presidential-primary debate, every Republican candidate indicated that he or she would oppose such a deal. Of course, it’s all academic because such a deal will never, ever be on offer. Hypotheticals work both ways, or they should. What would Democrats be willing to accept in exchange for signing off on a premium-support plan for Medicare? Nothing.
The press isn’t scandalized by this particular intransigence. It isn’t a favorite topic on the Sunday shows whether the influence of AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who opposes all meaningful spending cuts, will be broken in the Democratic party. No one is outraged that the Left is mustering a lobbying campaign to keep President Barack Obama from giving anything on entitlements in the talks over the fiscal cliff.
But whenever a Republican says he won’t abide by Grover’s pledge, the media act like a choir of angels celebrating another saved soul. So far, it’s only the usual suspects in the party, although House Speaker John Boehner has signaled a willingness to raise more revenue if the president will cut entitlement spending. What makes this time different from prior budget showdowns is that Republicans can remain technically compliant with the pledge by doing nothing, and taxes would still go up on everyone automatically at the end of the year.