Thursday, September 26, 2013


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.

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....
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.

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.

... 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 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.

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.


Victor said...

Yeah, well yours truly is beyond enraged!

What they want in return for raising the debt ceiling, is a wish-list of the very agenda that lost them the general election in 2012.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan had their asses handed to them, and now the Republicans want to hold the nation's economy hostage, until their losing agenda in enacted.

Conservatives and Republicans love America and democracy.
What they hate, is most Americans, and the democratic process.

Pops said...

Obama should kill the keystone Pipe dream right now. Dont wait, do it now. Call them out, NOW.

Ten Bears said...

Ain't gonna' happen pops. It'll be built. The O sold us out long ago.

Had a grand- daughter this afternoon, hour or so ago. Three of seven. Perhaps, perhaps that conveys the gravity of my concern. I could give a flying fuck about all this kumbuki theater.

The sound you don't hear is me jacking a round into my well-oiled AR.

No fear.

White Hat said...

Agree, Victor and Pops. Ten Bears, re the XL pipeline we don't really know yet. Maybe it depends on public opinion. Maybe a few more hurricanes will make a difference.

In any case, the GOP is out of it. When one side chooses not to debate honestly - when they break the debate rules - it's no longer a debate, it's a battle and all the polite debate rules are void. Since the beginning of this year Obama has acted accordingly.

While the GOP is stuck in the throes of its internal war to figure out their best consumer pitch, the operating government has quietly advanced the CFPB, EPA regulations, alternative energy programs, immigration rules and everything else the GOP can only officially oppose at this time. By the time the bad guys figure it out and can devote effort to fighting it all, their battle will have already been half lost. Thanks to Obama, there's less for the GOP to negotiate today than there was even six months ago.

Will the GOP expose themselves as agents of anti-government next month? Then Obama wins. Obama wins if they don't, too.

The real question is:

Do we?

marieburns said...

"I'll understand if this ends in an unpalatable compromise. It's not Obama's fault."

Bull. Obama opened this can of worms in 2011. Thankfully, he knows better now. To concede anything is to change our Constitutional form of government, as Obama himself has said. The Republicans are demanding that the President agree to let them enact Mitt Romney's agenda, & then some, in exchange for their "concession" of not bringing on international economic chaos. We had an election in 2012. Republicans lost ground on all fronts. They don't think they have to accept it.

Raising the debt ceiling is not a policy issue -- neither party gains or loses anything when Congress raises the debt ceiling as it has some 90 times since the law was enacted in 1917 -- and BTW, its purpose was to allow the president to make expenditures that Congress had not authorized, not -- as the situation is today -- to allow the Treasury to pay bills the Congress has incurred.

As for the public's POV, I've read some of the survey questions (& some of the "explanations" of "debt ceiling" that the pollsters provide), & they leave an ordinary person with no idea what "raising the debt ceiling" means. If you asked the question in the vernacular -- "Should the government pay its bills?" -- the vast majority likely would answer yes.

I thought Alex Seitz-Wald suggested the best Democratic response to the GOP debt ceiling bill: demand single-payer health care, a carbon tax, a path to citizenship, end sequestration, end the Bush tax cuts above $250K, a Wall Street tax & make Nancy Pelosi speaker. That makes as much sense as the GOP laundry list of demands.

Marie Burns