NBC’s Gregory Frets: If Only Republicans Had Caved Earlier on Tax Hikes

Getting reactions to the “fiscal cliff” deal/postponement from Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles – they of the much-cited “Simpson-Bowles Commission” – Meet the Press host David Gregory wistfully speculated on what might have been, had only Republicans agreed a year ago to raise income taxes.

He cued up Bowles: “Had Republicans conceded the point on revenue earlier, say, in 2011, could we have had a broader agreement along the lines that you think is necessary?”

Gregory’s question came after he explained how “Democrats reject this idea that there is some sort of equivalency in intransigence in Washington” and played a clip of President Obama proclaiming: “I offered to make some significant changes to our entitlement programs in order to reduce the deficit.”

Without then or later holding Obama accountable for opposition to any real budget cuts, Gregory pivoted to Bowles: “You heard leader McConnell and his views about the President not leading. Had Republicans conceded the point on revenue earlier, say, in 2011, could we have had a broader agreement along the lines that you think is necessary?”

Bowles agreed: “Oh, we definitely could have had...”

From the Sunday, January 6 Meet the Press on NBC:

DAVID GREGORY: Mr. Bowles, I asked the President last week, I said, “you know, there’s so much frustration out there. There’s a pox on both houses.” And he and other Democrats reject this idea that there is some sort of equivalency in intransigence in Washington. And this is how the President responded to it, laying the blame at the feet of Republicans. Let me play this and have you respond.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, DECEMBER 30 MEET THE PRESS: The offers that I have made to them have been so fair that a lot of Democrats get mad at me. I mean, I offered to make some significant changes to our entitlement programs in order to reduce the deficit. I offered not only $1 trillion in -- over $1 trillion in spending cuts over the next ten years, but these changes would result in even more savings in the next ten years and would solve our deficit problem for a decade.

DAVID GREGORY: Mr. Bowles, you heard leader McConnell and his views about the President not leading. Had Republicans conceded the point on revenue earlier, say, in 2011, could we have had a broader agreement along the lines that you think is necessary?

ERSKINE BOWLES: Oh, we definitely could have had. I think it was, as you said in your opening part, this was the magic moment. This was our opportunity to do something really big, to bring down this deficit and put our fiscal house in order. Yes, the President has taken some steps forward on the entitlement programs. But has he done enough? Absolutely not. And has the Speaker shown the flexibility he needs to show in order for us to broaden the base and simplify the code and reform our tax structure, or to be specific about which ones of the entitlements he would actually reduce? No. What we've got to do is both of us have got to get out of our comfort zone, both sides, and we've got to come together and make the tough decisions it takes to bring down this deficit. We believe it can be done. I think the American people want it done. And now's the time to do it.

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center