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The irresponsible Republican Party

It’s worth noting, again, the irresponsible behavior of the Republicans with regard to the fiscal crisis.

At its core, this is not about a tea party mindset that refuses all compromises based on either misguided principle or fear of primaries. That’s happening, as Steve Kornacki explains this morning, but it’s not the core problem. Nor is it about a House speaker too afraid of losing his job that he becomes too cowardly to put pressure on members of his conference or to pass something without the crazies of his conference. It’s not even, really, about a party refusing to accept the election returns or having a fanatical devotion to low tax rates no matter what. All those things are true, but they aren’t the worst of it.

Back up from the day-to-day and really look at it, and what you’ll see is a situation in which Republicans insist on superficially popular deficit reduction without being willing to support any of the means of getting deficit reduction — and having demonstrated repeatedly that if Democrats propose any specific deficit-reduction measures, they’ll be quick to attack.

The truth is that we probably wouldn’t have any major problem if Republicans were willing to propose actual policies that would achieve the deficit-reduction goal they insist is essential. For better or worse, Barack Obama and the Democrats appear willing to cut a deal, even if it involves accepting spending cuts that Democratic voters and activists hate. Obama and the Democrats are also, obviously, willing to propose and strongly support tax increases.

What Obama and the Democrats are not willing to do — and should not be willing to do — is to propose and take the blame for the specific spending cuts that would be needed for deficit reduction of the size that Republicans insist on.

And not only are Republicans unwilling to offer specific spending cuts, but they have spent the past two election cycles running against the cuts that Democrats have proposed.

Democrats already know that they will be attacked in 2014 for supporting a large tax increase. They simply cannot also be the ones who proposed spending cuts to popular programs, knowing that they’ll be attacked for that, too. And, for good measure, they’ll surely be attacked for allowing large deficits, too, regardless of what happens now.

It’s very simple: If Republicans really want deficit reduction, they have to accept the costs of advocating specific deficit-reduction policies, or else they’re not going to get deficit reduction. If they don’t want deficit reduction enough to support deficit-reduction policies, then they should just shut up about deficit reduction.

Anything else is just massively irresponsible.