Battles over the budget continue. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post) Battles over the budget continue. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

Why aren’t Democrats planning to fight harder over funding levels in the continuing resolution that will keep the government running? Greg Sargent does some good reporting, and he gets answers. The Democratic hope is that eventually Republicans will be forced to consider

… the possibility of a bigger deal that includes a debt limit hike (unofficially; the official position is there’s no negotiating over it) and a longer term replacement (say, one year) for the sequester that includes some new revenues. Would Republicans ever agree to new revenues? Maybe not. But remember, if the sequester replacement deal is only one year, the amount of needed revenues would be relatively small and could be accomplished with relatively easy closings on a handful of tax loopholes. And at that point, with default and economic havoc looming, he’d likely be under extreme pressure from the business community and even some Senate Republicans to reach a deal with Dems.

This is pretty consistent with what we’ve heard from Democrats in the past — and it’s just nuts.

Why? Because this strategy appears to have Democrats plotting to get higher revenue and lower deficits rather than placing a priority on higher funding for Democratic priorities. That’s nuts because it almost certainly does not match the preferences of most Democratic voters; it’s also nuts because it’s a terrible match for Republican priorities.

Basically, if Democrats care most about deficits and higher taxes and least about higher spending levels, then what they’re going to get are lower deficits, lower spending and no change in revenue. After all, we know that Republicans care most about keeping taxes low. So the natural compromise is to give Republicans their top priority (low taxes), Democrats one of their top priorities (low deficits), and then keep spending low to make that work.

Moreover, a “more spending, higher deficits” compromise is almost certainly easier to attain because it would allow Republicans to increase spending on those programs they like. For whatever it’s worth, it’s probably more popular, too; people like government spending! And very few people actually care about deficits.

Now, if Democrats do care about deficits more than anything else, then they’re on the right track. I just don’t believe they do; it’s more as if they’ve drifted into a position that has become their biggest achievable priority, almost by accident. As for taxes, well, again, perhaps Democrats really do care about high taxes in the abstract. Some, I’m sure, do. But for the most part, again, they seem to have drifted into a foolish negotiating position in which higher taxes, rather than higher spending levels on programs liberals like, has become the bigger ask.

It sure doesn’t make sense to me.