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Who Are You Calling Unreasonable?

Prominent pundits still insist on writing as if the failure to strike a compromise on economic policy reflects intransigence and extremism from both parties. Yes, Mr. Friedman, I'm looking at you. With that in mind, pause and consider the following, entirely accurate context paragraph from a story about the new deficit commission that appeared in Monday's New York Times:

Last week began with contradictory markers from President Obama and Speaker John A. Boehner. Mr. Boehner reiterated that Republicans would oppose any tax increases, and then Mr. Obama, newly aggressive, warned that he would veto any measure that would trim Medicare benefits without also raising taxes on the wealthy.

The Republican leadership position is as simple as it is extreme: No new taxes. Period. Now contrast that with Obama's position: No cuts to Medicare ... unless they affect something other than benefits ... and unless they come with tax increases on the wealthy.

We could spend a long time arguing whether Obama's position represents a good bargaining position and where, exactly, the true ideological midpoint of American politics lies. But, as a general rule, it's hard to imagine how anybody following politics even casually might conclude the two parties are equally to compromise for the sake of addressing our fiscal problems.