Consider this scenario: Someone approaches you offering a deal and you agree to it, even signing a contract. Then the other person develops buyer's remorse and asks to renegotiate the deal.
Under the new deal, you would give up half of what you were expecting and the other person would get 50 percent more. When you respond, "So you get more and I get nothing? Are you serious?" they throw a tantrum and accuse you of not playing fair.
That, in a metaphorical nutshell, captures the debate on Capitol Hill over the looming budget sequester. Last week, Democrats offered Republicans a supposed compromise to avoid the sequester's $85 billion in scheduled spending cuts, which are roughly split between defense and nondefense spending.
The Democrats' proposal would replace the sequester with $55 billion in tax hikes, $27.5 billion in reduced agriculture subsidies and $27.5 billion in cuts to defense spending. None of the spending cuts or tax hikes would take effect until 2014, when the economy is supposed to start growing again.
Nearly all of the additional tax revenue -- $54 billion of the $55 billion -- comes from the so-called Buffett Rule, which would create a 30 percent minimum tax rate on incomes over $1 million. The other billion comes from higher taxes on oil companies and American companies that earn profits overseas.
In other words, the Democrats are asking the Republicans to trade half of the spending cuts they were expecting for yet more tax hikes, offering in return only to reduce (but not eliminate) the spending cuts to defense -- cuts that Republicans had grudgingly accepted in the hope they would drive home the urgency of reining in the spendthrift federal budget.
Don't forget: The budget sequester was the Democrats' idea. It served as the compromise that solved the 2011 impasse over the debt ceiling. Since then, however, the Democrats have made clear that the sequester was merely a political ploy.
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney was perhaps too candid in a Twitter fight over the subject with Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan.
When Amash tweeted: "It's even more disingenuous for Pres O to call sequester 'devastating' when he came up w/it & signed it into law," Carney shot back: "Sir -- whole point of sequester, as u know, was to avoid it, BECAUSE it's devastating. Need to pass balanced buy-down."
Amash was incredulous: "Is that a serious tweet? You don't sign a bill unless you're OKAY w/the consequences. It's Being President 101." Perhaps President Obama was out skeet shooting during that class.
In any event, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has been appropriately dismissive of the Democrats' effort. "When the Senate passes a plan, I'll be happy to take a look at it," Boehner told the Daily Caller. "Until they pass a plan, there's no reason for me to comment on what they're gonna do or not do."
Both the Senate and House are out of town next week for Presidents Day. That leaves just one week for the Senate to pass the Democrats' bill before the sequester kicks in.
If the Democrats genuinely believe that the sequester will be as dire as they claim, then they have a duty to offer a serious response that actually engages the minority party. That's called Leadership 101.