Most liberals hate the fact that President Obama allowed the sequester to happen. Matt Yglesias:
The absolute worst mistake Obama has made as president came back in 2011.... At that time, Obama desperately wanted a bargain over long-term fiscal policy. So he tried a bit of too-clever-by-half political jujitsu in which GOP debt ceiling hostage taking became a pretext to start negotiations over long-term budgeting. All manner of evils have fallen forth from that fateful decisions, including an economic weak patch in 2011[,] the ongoing mess of sequestration, and worst of all the setting of a precedent for future crises.Fortunately, says Yglesias, the president has grown a spine:
The good news is that the White House recognizes they made a mistake, and the last time Republicans tried to pull this they didn't give in. And they can't give in now. Not even a little bit. A terrible monster was let out of the box in 2011 and the best thing Obama can possibly do for the country at this point is to stuff it back in and hopefully kill it.Noam Scheiber also admires Obama's intestinal fortitude, and tells us not to worry:
... Obama has absolutely refused to negotiate over the debt limit in any way. He's been remarkably consistent on this point, going so far as to call Boehner on Friday night for no other reason than to inform him he still wasn't negotiating. (It was about as close as you get as president to calling up a high office-holder and telling him to go f*** himself. I admired it greatly.) Unlike in the past, Obama has shown no indication of folding on this point.But here's the thing. Obama caved in 2011 -- and won reelection in 2012, after we managed to avoid a debt default. Now he's determined not to cave. He's telling the public he won't negotiate. And what does the public think?
Americans by a 2-to-1 ratio disagree with President Barack Obama's contention that Congress should raise the U.S. debt limit without conditions.This is the result of decades and decades of propaganda that tells us that all government spending is waste, while elves and fairies actually do all the things we expect government to do, for free. It's also a manifestation of the rage gap in American politics: many Republican voters want Republican politicians to be extreme and intransigent, while the vast majority of Democratic voters (and swing voters) want all politicians to compromise and play nice. The result is that Republicans can dig in their heels and increase base turnout, especially before a midterm election (when it's all about turning out your base), while Democrats will alienate their base by standing up for principle.
Instead, 61 percent say that it's "right to require spending cuts when the debt ceiling is raised even if it risks default," because Congress lacks spending discipline, according to a Bloomberg National Poll conducted Sept. 20-23.
That sentiment is shared by almost three-quarters of Republicans, two-thirds of independents, and a plurality of Democrats. Just 28 percent of respondents backed Obama's call for a clean bill that has no add-on provisions....
I hate the fact that our politics works this way, but, alas, our politics does work this way.
Republicans seem to understand what's going on. National Journal says House Republicans now seem inclined to avoid the imminent government shutdown, and intend instead to focus on hostage-taking over the debt ceiling (which is much more dangerous to the economy). What will the House GOP demand in return for a debt ceiling increase? The National Journal story mentions only "a one-year delay in the implementation of Obamacare in exchange for extending the nation's borrowing limit." But elsewhere, I'm reading about much more onerous demands. Matt Yglesias again:
From Jonathan Strong's report at NRO, what Republicans want in exchange for agreeing to not default on the national debt is a one year delay of Obamacare, Paul Ryan's tax reform, the Keystone XL pipeline, partial repeal of the Clean Air Act, partial repeal of bank regulation legislation, Medicare cuts, cuts in several anti-poverty programs, making it harder to launch medical malpractice lawsuits, more drilling on federal land, blocking net neutrality, and a suite of changes designed to make it harder for regulatory agencies to crack the whip.Oh, is that all?
Yglesias is right about what the GOP is proposing here by tying this sort of blackmail to the debt ceiling:
... Republicans are essentially asking for an end to constitutional government in the United States and its replacement by a wholly novel system.That's appalling -- but I'm afraid poorly informed Democratic voters are going to punish Democrats if the president doesn't pay some of this ransom, while Republican voters will just be energized by the fight.
... The president should become an elected figurehead (not dissimilar to the elected presidents of Germany, Israel, or Italy) whose role is simply to assent to the policy preferences of the legislative majority.
That's why I'll understand if this ends in an unpalatable compromise. It's not Obama's fault. It's Yeats again: the GOP crazy base is full of passionate intensity. And the people who should be enraged by the GOP agenda lack all conviction.