Is there any more tragic figure in American politics than John Boehner? A career politician to end all career politicians, stuck in an impossible and thankless job, criticized by both the Left and the Right, harboring forever an unachievable dream, destined to leave politics with that dream entirely unfulfilled. The dream had a suitably lofty name: the Grand Bargain.
The outline of the Grand Bargain was simple enough: Entitlement programs are growing out of control as America ages, a simple reality that was obvious enough to both Democrats and Republicans in the aftermath of the Great Recession, and the federal debt will soon be unsustainable. There are, of course, two ways of addressing the debt: (a) increasing revenue through tax hikes and (b) cutting spending. Republicans hate the former; Democrats hate the latter. The Grand Bargain would have forged a compromise.