Last night on CBS's 60 Minutes, Leslie Stahl asked House Majority Leader Eric Cantor if the Republicans were ready to compromise with Democrats on taxes. "Cooperate," yes, Cantor told Stahl, but not "compromise." What's the difference?
“I would say cooperate is ‘Let’s look to where we can move things forward to where we agree,” Cantor said. “Compromising principles, you don’t want to ask anybody to do that. That’s who they are as their core being.”
But when Stahl repeatedly pressured Cantor by pointing out that his idol, Ronald Reagan, repeatedly compromised on his principles by raising taxes, Cantor stubbornly refused to concede the point. In fact, at one point, Cantor's press secretary yells from off-camera, "That’s not true, and I don’t want to let that stand."
Of course, it is true. After his big 1981 tax cut predictably set off a budget crisis, ballooning deficits, Reagan repeatedly raised payroll, income, and corporate taxes. In fact, as Paul Krugman has famously pointed out, "no peacetime president has raised taxes so much on so many people."
That Cantor can't admit this—that he and his people would vehemently deny an easily verifiable fact in the service of maintaining their stubborn refusal to compromise on a full one-half of the budget equation—illustrates just how pointless the oft-repeated call for bipartisanship is. When the Republicans are so adamant in their refusal to compromise that they would deny actual history, any attempt by the Democrats to compromise would amount to futility at best, and surrender at worst.