Will Obama take us over the fiscal cliff and then keep us there?

by Corey Robin on November 9, 2012

So here’s a question for the people who know more about this stuff than I do (i.e., everyone): Doesn’t Obama have good reasons not only to lead us over the fiscal cliff, but also to keep us there? That is, not negotiate any kind of deal with the Republicans, neither before nor after January 1? Unless you assume Obama doesn’t want cuts to entitlements — which I don’t assume; I believe he’s an austerian of Reactionary Keynesianism — think about what he gets if he allows the sequester to go through: slightly higher tax rates, cuts to entitlements, and cuts to defense. Those seems like classic New Democrat/Clintonite goals. I recognize it would put the economy in danger of recession, but Obama’s not up for reelection and modern Democratic presidents have shown little interest in the fate of congressional Democrats, particularly at mid-term election time, and in party-building more generally. So, I ask, not rhetorically: will Obama take us over the cliff and then keep us there?

{ 161 comments }

1

Andreas Moser 11.09.12 at 2:35 pm

Don’t worry, USA. I have been living close to a fiscal cliff for many years. It’s not that bad. Other things in life are more important.

2

Niall McAuley 11.09.12 at 2:36 pm

I saw Howard Dean say this on the BBC election night coverage: that going over the cliff is the best policy choice for Democrats. Not as a bluff or a bargaining position: doing it for real, and dealing with the small recession it causes.

But no, I expect Obama to propose a feeble compromise as an opening gambit, and then doing exactly what the Republicans want when they don’t blink.

Because we are all in this together.

3

Jesse 11.09.12 at 2:38 pm

The Vegas answer is no.

4

Corey Robin 11.09.12 at 2:40 pm

Niall: That’s interesting that you say Dean said it, since his 2004 campaign was in many ways the predecessor to Obama’s. Any link?

5

Hidari 11.09.12 at 2:42 pm

Possible but highly unlikely. It’s just not his style psychologically. Instead we will have endless debate about this and that followed by a compromise ın which Obama cuts aid to the poor, but not by quite as much as the Republicans wanted him to.

6

William deB. Mills 11.09.12 at 2:44 pm

Good question. I think Obama should ignore Boehner and focus on splitting the House Republicans while publicly addressing the nation.

Tentative initial signals from Washington on the shameful budget impasse should be disturbing to every patriotic American: Obama appears unable to escape from the errors of the past. The news that he is again entering negotiations with House Speaker Boehner, as though the guy were an equal of the President, sends all the wrong signals.

Obama should be President, not the negotiator dealing with the Congressional obstructionists of the party he just defeated. Reid could do that…or Elizabeth Warren, a Senator who actually knows something about budgetary issues and elite corruption and their social implications. Obama should be speaking to the country, laying out with crystal clarity and brutal honesty the danger of continuing to coddle the rich with such forms of welfare for the rich as a 15% tax rate on unearned income and a historically minimal level of income tax progressiveness. Obama should be speaking publicly and be focused on principles, e.g., the principles of fairness, social justice, and making the selfish rich step up and help their country.

The Republicans, of course, still exist, but only about 15 of them in the House matter – the first 15 Obama can recruit to support his program. Obama wasted four years trying to join the opposition. When will he learn that the opposition does not want him? Rather than empowering Speaker Boehner, who has already spoken clearly about his continuing refusal to stop protecting the rich, Obama should focus on splitting the opposition. All 233 House Republicans are of course up for reelection in two years. Obama has two years to convince their district voters that they are blocking economic recovery. Getting 15 votes out of 233 should not be beyond Obama’s powers of persuasion. That requires a clear message to the public, however, not a picture of the President of the United States cutting some unprincipled deal with a defeated Republican lackey of the rich. Right now is Obama’s last chance to demonstrate his willingness to lead.

7

richard 11.09.12 at 2:52 pm

New York Magazine lays it all out very clearly, what the unpublicized Obama agenda is, or should be. Let the automatic cuts come, then let the tax cuts expire. This results in lots of new revenue, and O can exercise some leverage. Revision to tax code to lower taxes instead of to raise them, more palatable politically. Under $250K tax cuts. O can pick and choose what programs to re-fund after automatic cuts. By the way, it sounds like you think entitlement programs are subject to cuts — this is not the case, they’re specifically exempted. I’m not doing the article justice. Oct 22 issue, article called November 7. Lays out agendas for both candidates. Pretty sure you can read for free on their website. Sounds like a good plan to me, I hope O read it.

8

Greg Sanders 11.09.12 at 2:57 pm

From a defense budget analyst perspective, this seems somewhat unlikely based on other actions by the administration. As a general rule, the line from the administration has been to not plan for sequestration, which substantially increases the trauma of any discretionary cuts as they would be applied in an unthinking manner. This is widely interpreted to be an attempt to strength the administration’s bargaining position by making sequestration cuts appear more unpalatable.

If sequestration does happen, last minute planning and various budgetary tricks I’m sure will be used to buy time and quickly apply the planning that was avoided. However, this isn’t really something you can bluff on. If sequestration does hit, it will hit harder as a result of the administration’s negotiation strategy. That said, Obama has been quite explicit that it will not hit, suggesting some can-kicking will likely occur in the absence of a deal.

9

Watson Ladd 11.09.12 at 3:11 pm

Massively procyclical fiscal policy when the Fed is at the zero bound? Have you not noticed that we are still in a very bad economic situation and the Fed is out of ammunition? Nobody cares about tax rates: people care about the economic consequences thereof.

10

bob mcmanus 11.09.12 at 3:18 pm

No.

Look just a rumour, and I am searching for confirmation but I read that MSNBC First Look said that Obama will ask that all the Bush tax cuts be extended (for how long?) in the lame duck and leave spending and sequester up to Congress. Rumor says there will be a speech today.

A little evidence that this is where we are going:

Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Senate Democrat, extended an olive branch to Republicans, suggesting Thursday that he could accept a tax plan that leaves the top tax rate at 35 percent, provided that loophole closings would hit the rich, not the middle class. He previously had said that he would accept nothing short of a return to the top tax rate of Bill Clinton’s presidency, 39.6 percent.

“If you kept them at 35, it’s still much harder to do,” Mr. Schumer said, “but obviously there is push and pull, and there are going to be compromises.”

http://news.firedoglake.com/2012/11/09/conciliatory-rhetoric-breaking-out-in-washington/

And then we would do “tax reform” in the new Congress.

11

LFC 11.09.12 at 3:21 pm

I heard a respected lefty (left-liberal) economist at a talk last night (Nov. 8) say that going over the cliff (i.e., allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire plus sequestration — the combination of tax rises and across-the-board spending cuts) would result in a “severe” (her word) recession, though I don’t think she specified whether it would be a fairly brief one or not. I also heard on the radio that Cong. Budget Office (I think) has done an analysis of the likely effects, finding, iirc, that it would throw the economy into recession, albeit (again, iirc) not a prolonged one. Someone who is interested can no doubt track down the CBO thing quite easily.

12

Jeffrey Davis 11.09.12 at 3:22 pm

Irrelevant. The Republicans will continue to hold the budgetary process hostage. Except more often. Certainly every six weeks or so. I wouldn’t be surprised to find them eventually repeating the drama for every news cycle. The Tea Partiers have a thirst for Armageddon and “End Times” and such and won’t be satisfied until they have pulled the Republic down the way Samson pulled down the temple.

13

Chaz 11.09.12 at 3:22 pm

Obama very firmly promised that the sequester “will not happen” in the debates. And Panetta’s been squawking that defense cuts would undermine our security. As stupid as it is and even though he has up to now been mildly interested in reducing military spending, I suspect that this time Obama will bend over backward to increase defense spending. He may “compromise” by signing a smaller Medicare cut, even though that is bad policy and even though voters would blame him for it. He is Peterson-infected and has proposed cutting Medicare before.

I expect he also will not allow the tax cuts to expire. He will give Boehner a partial extension of the tax cuts only for the rich in exchange for renewal of the “middle class” tax cuts that also mostly go to the rich.

14

Chaz 11.09.12 at 3:24 pm

I don’t think a Medicare cut is the most likely scenario, though. Probably some can kicking and smaller cuts to important discretionary programs.

15

LFC 11.09.12 at 3:24 pm

Rumor says there will be a speech today.

More than rumor; I think Obama is probably making a statement right about now (10:25 a.m. EDT) if he hasn’t already.

16

bob mcmanus 11.09.12 at 3:26 pm

7: I think that tax and spend would be very good for the economy. Tax cuts haven’t worked so well. You want the consuming classes to have money in their pockets to boost aggregate demand? Try giving them jobs and paychecks.

We have not been served well by economists.

17

Brian Weatherson 11.09.12 at 3:30 pm

What cuts to entitlements are in the sequester? I thought the answer was none; it’s large cuts to discretionary programs, larger cuts to defence, and return to Clinton tax rates.

Link.

It’s not the right program now; it’s still pro-cyclical as Watson says, and would result in recession, as LFC says. But it isn’t a terrible plan for an America with 4% or so unemployment. It’s as close to a Hard Keynesian boom time program as has been realistically proposed for a while. And it’s an existence proof that the budget can be balanced without cutting entitlements. After all, once the sequester takes effect, we don’t have a deficit.

It’s grimly amusing to see the same people complaining about the deficit and the fiscal cliff. I’ve even seen articles with those complaints being run in the same paragraph. If you really cared about the deficit, you should love the cliff, as Corey says.

18

LFC 11.09.12 at 4:04 pm

What cuts to entitlements are in the sequester? I thought the answer was none

That’s right, afaik. There does however seem to be an assumption that if and when there is a ‘serious’ negotiation about these issues everything, including Medicare and Social Security, would be ‘on the table’ in some way.

Btw, the same economist I referred to above made a point that I hadn’t been very aware of: namely, that Obama’s and the Dems’ much-maligned stimulus bill (the American Recovery Act, or whatever it was called) made significant, somewhat technical changes in unemployment insurance that enabled it to function as much more of a real safety net (or part of one) during the post-’08 recession than it otherwise would have. Not directly relevant to the ‘cliff’ discussion, but I thought it was interesting.

19

Corey Robin 11.09.12 at 4:23 pm

Medicare is not exempt from the sequester cuts. Though it’s limited to 2%, and I think I saw a figure saying it would total $120 billion over the next 8 years or so.

20

Brian Weatherson 11.09.12 at 4:44 pm

Sorry, I was wrong and Corey was right. There is a cut to Medicare – Link. It’s not huge; a 2% reduction in provider benefits, or about $11bn/year, but it would make a difference. There’s no cuts to Medicaid and CHIP, and no cuts to Social Security, but Medicare isn’t exempt.

But I strongly agree with what LFC is saying. If you’re worried about entitlement cuts, it’s the negotiations you should fear more than the cliff. The cuts in the sequester are not zero, but they are much lower than I expect would in any negotiation.

21

Corey Robin 11.09.12 at 5:07 pm

22

Jim 11.09.12 at 5:12 pm

The sequester and the expiration of the tax cuts are two different things. I expect that the sequester will not happen. There are a lot of defense contractor lobbyists in town. The House will pass a bill deferring (or dropping entirely) the defense portion of the sequester; the Senate will modify it to include the entire sequester; the House will reluctantly recede. Obama will sign. Perhaps on New Year’s Eve.

But on the tax cuts, Corey may well be right. Obama today is supposed to reiterate his offer to keep all but the top rate tax cuts, a position which has already been rejected by both McConnell and Boehner: he makes them an offer they don’t accept. Once the tax cuts expire, he has no reason to seek new ones. He can blame them for the tax increase. To the extent that the expiration is recessionary, he has some tools: Bernanke hasn’t completely exhausted his repertoire and he knows what he needs to do to be reappointed. With a different Treasury Secretary (and there will be one), the TARP funds can be used to beef up selected firms’ capital spending.

With Clinton era tax rates in effect, the threat of prolonged deficits is much milder.

23

Marc 11.09.12 at 7:01 pm

“Delivering a statement on the economy from the White House on Friday, President Obama urged Congress to extend Bush-era tax cuts on the middle class “right now,” while talks on a broader deficit reduction package continue with top Republicans.

“If Congress fails to make an agreement…everybody’s taxes will automatically go up on January 1st,” Obama said.

“All we need is action from the House,” Obama added. “I’ve got the pen. I’m ready to sign the bill right away.”

—————
The betrayal that people on the left keep asserting keeps not, well, happening. Perhaps a little less Republic-like certainty might be in order?

24

Lord 11.09.12 at 7:02 pm

We will go over the cliff simply because there isn’t time or will in the remaining Congress. With the new Congress he will offer extensions on tax cuts though with different end dates in exchange for an increased debt limit and deferring and phasing in spending cuts, but don’t expect him to abandon them. He wants to gradually tighten fiscal policy but only as fast as the economy can absorb it. The problem is the economy can’t absorb it so without renewed stimulus we may have another recession. Congress has more to fear from a certain recession than a possible one so will accept a deal.

25

Omega Centauri 11.09.12 at 7:06 pm

We also have the stock market panicking if a deal is not made sooner rather than later.

26

Niall McAuley 11.09.12 at 7:09 pm

Now that I look, I see that Howard Dean has been saying this (“Let’s go over the cliff”) for a while, here he is in August.

27

gastro george 11.09.12 at 7:29 pm

Obama needs to mint his platinum coin.

28

Tom Allen 11.09.12 at 7:33 pm

Tied up with the “fiscal cliff” fight is the next debt ceiling crisis. The current debt ceiling runs out near the end of this year, and judging by last time, the House will hold it hostage for concessions and the Democrats will give in to demands. Though both sides may well postpone the big fight till the next Congress in January.

29

Hidari 11.09.12 at 7:51 pm

“Perhaps a little less Republic-like certainty might be in order?”

Sure. I mean, who knows? But we have been here before. The first real “centrist” Democrat was Clinton. Then we had, in Britain, Blair. Now Obama. And in all these cases we were told that “he is just pretending to be right wıng to get elected.” Then “he is just pretending to be right wing to be RE-elected”. Once he no longer had any elections to fear, we were told, we would see the REAL Clinton, Blair etc.

But the reality is that these men have tended to turn further and further to the right the older they have become. E.g. Blair. All his progressive achievements (e.g. the minimum wage etc.) were in his first term. If you want my guess I would say that “Obamacare” will probably be seen in hindsight as the high water mark of Obama the Progressive.

30

Brandon 11.09.12 at 8:13 pm

I think Obama is smart enough to see what austerity policy (and that’s what the fiscal ‘cliff’ is, a big ol’ austerity package) has wrought in Europe.

31

Bogdanov 11.09.12 at 8:31 pm

How could anybody possibly allow cuts in defense spending at a time like this, when Iran just shot at that innocent unarmed drone over the Gulf of Tonkin…sorry, the Persian Gulf…?!

Not that we live in an Orwellian world or anything.

32

rootless (@root_e) 11.09.12 at 8:36 pm

Once he no longer had any elections to fear, we were told, we would see the REAL Clinton, Blair etc.

Nobody said that – certainly not about Clinton. However the failure of so many predictions of Obama’s impending destruction of the safety net seems utterly irrelevant to the appeal of issuing those predictions.

33

rootless (@root_e) 11.09.12 at 8:37 pm

The current debt ceiling runs out near the end of this year, and judging by last time, the House will hold it hostage for concessions and the Democrats will give in to demands.

Want to fill me in on which GOP demands Democrats gave in to?

34

rootless (@root_e) 11.09.12 at 8:40 pm

Its absolutely bizarre to see the “left” buying into GOP caricatures of the left being mindlessly obsessed with government expenditure. Berwick left office stating that 1/3 of Medicare spending is stolen/wasted, which I think is a solid estimate, yet “the left” seems desperate to make sure that giant hospital chains and medical equipment franchisers keep raking in tax money.

35

mds 11.09.12 at 8:41 pm

Congress has more to fear from a certain recession than a possible one so will accept a deal.

This makes the mistake of treating “Congress” as if it were a monolithic bloc. The Senate has more to fear from a certain recession than a possible one, but they aren’t the primary problem anyway. The current House GOP has a non-negligible contingent that would apparently be perfectly happy with total economic meltdown, because the welfare state and/or fiat currency are such abominations. And what would they have to fear, exactly? Their embrace of total obstruction and mouth-frothing economic brinkmanship didn’t lead to the election of a Republican president, but their 2010 seizure of the levers of power in state legislating led to gerrymandering following census redistricting, some of it impressively old-school. Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan voted for Obama again, and re-elected incumbent Democratic senators, yet Pennsylvania has a 13R – 5D Congressional delegation, Ohio 12-4, and Michigan 9-5. It has been observed that with the old Congressional districts in place, Democrats would have regained the House, yet despite their national showing they picked up only a handful of the lowest-hanging seats. They are unlikely to regain control of the House for the rest of the decade. Hence, we get Speaker Boehner declaring that the people have spoken by keeping the GOP in charge of the House of Representatives, and he’s prepared to negotiate with the President as long as Obama basically agrees to adopt Mitt Romney’s economic plan. So why would a chamber of Congress so insulated from consequences fear a recession?

36

Gotchaye 11.09.12 at 8:46 pm

Obama just gave a reasonably promising statement trying to frame this as “everyone wants middle-class tax cuts, so let’s do those and then fight about everything else later”. The cliff gives the Democrats a huge advantage because they can promise tax cuts for everyone relative to current law and still end up with higher taxes on the rich than we had before. There is clear panic over on National Review about this; they didn’t even come close to accurately reporting what Obama said in his statement. My feeling is that the Democrats win the fight on taxes and then trade undoing the defense cuts for undoing the discretionary spending cuts, and we end up with no sequester and higher taxes on the rich.

And I’m with rootless just above @30. The Democrats held strong on the debt ceiling, even after the US’ credit rating got downgraded. Republicans started getting panicked calls from influential people and had to back down, granting a debt ceiling increase that would last through the election and getting no changes to then-current policy. Someone arranged for them to save face with this fiscal cliff thing, and the consensus now is that the fiscal cliff puts the Democrats in a better position than they were in before.

That said, Boehner’s going to be under a lot of pressure not to negotiate at least until the start of the year, since Cantor’s gunning for his job.

37

Corey Robin 11.09.12 at 8:58 pm

#30: “Want to fill me in on which GOP demands Democrats gave in to?” In phase 1 of the debt ceiling deal, there were 1 trillion in cuts, 1/2 of which were in non-defense discretionary spending, and no tax increases on anyone, including the rich. In the sequester part of phase 2, there will be 8.2 percent cut in non-defense discretionary spending, for things like Pell grants, Head Start, AIDS assistance, etc. These were the deals that were negotiated. Are you saying they weren’t GOP demands because the Democrats wanted to cut Head Start, etc.?

38

rootless (@root_e) 11.09.12 at 9:12 pm

Cory you appear to agree with the GOP that Democrats simply favor spending without any interest in how the money is spent – that’s not a position that most Democrats accept.

But if your argument is that Democrats gave into GOP demands that the Bush tax cuts be allowed to expire and that there would be massive Defense cuts and cuts in Ag subsidies if any discretionary funds were cut at all and that Medicare/SS/Medicaid would be pretty much protected from those cuts, have at it.

39

bob mcmanus 11.09.12 at 9:15 pm

http://news.firedoglake.com/2012/11/09/obama-calls-for-freeze-on-tax-rates-under-250000/

Obama is caving. Dayen at FDL parses every word carefully, which is what you have to with this guy.

Brad Dayspring, Eric Cantor’s press aide, noted immediately that “There is certainly room for agreement between what Speaker Boehner said and President Obama said without increasing rates.” Indeed, Obama never used the word “rates.” He said that the rich have to pay more in taxes; that could be accomplished through capping or limiting or eliminating deductions. The rates could stay the same, or as Boehner wants, go down.

Obama focused on the need to extend the tax rates for the first $250,000 of income rather than the rates on the wealthy. “I’ve got the pen. I’m ready to sign the bill right away,” Obama said.

Previously, the President, through aides, vowed to veto any fiscal slope actions that did not accompany an increase in those top-end tax rates. This was a substantially softer approach.

40

rootless (@root_e) 11.09.12 at 9:21 pm

Dayen is parsing the same way that numerologists are adding. And he has a similar track record of accuracy.

41

Corey Robin 11.09.12 at 9:21 pm

#38: You asked at #33, “Want to fill me on which GOP demands Democrats gave in to?” as if #30 had made the craziest claim in the world. I pointed out at #37 very specific demands that the Democrats gave into. I’m judging by the hand-waving and efforts to change the subject at #38 that you basically concede that your snarky question either was premised on false information (or lack of information) or was simply a bad-faith blustering attempt to make people think that they didn’t know what they were talking about when clearly they did.

42

bob mcmanus 11.09.12 at 9:29 pm

40 see comment 10 above

I bet a deal is almost done. The Bush tax rate schedule is permanent.

Until the next Republican Government.

43

rootless (@root_e) 11.09.12 at 9:29 pm

Sorry, Cory you are still out at sea. The claim was that Dems gave in to GOP demands and yet you have pretend that the sequester has happened (something GOP does not want) to find specific cuts in Democratic supported programs. So spare me the circular narrative in which we know that the Democrats caved, because Democrats cave.

The deal gave the GOP nearly nothing of what they demanded: sharp cuts in Medicare, defunding Planned Parenthood, permanent GOP tax cuts etc etc. So if you want to feel sorry for yourself about how the Democrats betrayed you, you have to come up with a better story.

44

Gotchaye 11.09.12 at 9:30 pm

My bad. I very much misremembered what was in that first tranche of cuts.

45

rootless (@root_e) 11.09.12 at 9:33 pm

bob mcmanus 11.09.12 at 9:29 pm

40 see comment 10 above

I bet a deal is almost done. The Bush tax rate schedule is permanent.

Until the next Republican Government.

My favorite Dayen prediction was that the famous “catfood commission” was wired to recommend big cuts in SS/Medicare and Pelosi had committed the House to vote those into law before the end of term. Bullshit on both counts – as usual – but the frisson of impending doom is apparently too appealing to give up.

46

rootless (@root_e) 11.09.12 at 9:39 pm

The classic example is the Pell grant budgeting which has actually increased greatly – EXCEPT that diversion to for profit schools has been cut.
Apparently profits for Kaplan are a liberal fundamental now.

Most of the decrease in Pell spending was for students who attended for-profit institutions, which accounted for $1.4 billion of the dropoff. For-profits have been battered by slumping enrollments, and the number of Pell recipients attending for-profits declined by 108,000 students, to roughly 2.1 million.
Other sectors, however, saw increases in total grant funds. Community colleges and public four-year institutions received slightly more in Pell revenue, while private colleges saw a small decline. The number of Pell recipients increased at public four-year and private colleges, while slightly fewer students at community colleges received the grants.

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/09/07/pell-spending-declines-despite-growth-grant-recipients#ixzz2BlQGbCEI
Inside Higher Ed

47

Corey Robin 11.09.12 at 10:05 pm

#43: “So if you want to feel sorry for yourself about how the Democrats betrayed you…” Almost the funniest I’ve read all day. I genuinely, sincerely, appreciate the laugh.

48

rootless (@root_e) 11.09.12 at 10:12 pm

Two more interesting examples. Cory and others have denounced Simpson-BowlesChairs SS recommendations as horrific betrayal of liberal principles apparently without ever reading the report. Recommendations do include increasing retirement age (which I oppose) but: (1) retirement age is already slated to increase via an agreement pre-Obama that for some reason was not a horrid betrayal of liberalism (2) they propose 20% of retirees, those from physically demanding jobs, be permitted to retire at 62 – lower than current law will allow for most of us and (3) they propose that low income retirees be boosted up past poverty rates. Note that those who claim to be the authorities on what liberals should support have not even bothered to discuss these provisions. Apparently the regressive and unfair nature of existing SS rates and benefits is sacrosant for liberalism.

Second, Don Berwick’s departure statement from Medicare included the claim that 1/3 of Medicare spending is wasted or stolen. When Obama speaks of possible medicare cuts he always insists on cuts to providers not in benefits – clearly he buys into this theory. Yet the Liberal Authorities not only never discuss this theory, but they insist that any cuts to Medicare are heartless neoliberalism at its most inhumane because, apparently, payments to pharm companies and for profit hospital chains are also sacred.

49

Omega Centauri 11.09.12 at 10:18 pm

Over at the economist they were claiming that those deduction caps could raise renenues on the top 2% by the equivalent to a 2% increase in rates, and that it just might be facesaving enough for Boehner, as the headline rate remains unchanged. We will just have to wait and see.

I do want to note, that every day there isn’t a deal the uncertainty troll causes people to delay purchases and businesses to delay hiring, etc. So there is a real economic benefit to dealing early.

50

Corey Robin 11.09.12 at 10:24 pm

#48: ” Cory and others have denounced Simpson-BowlesChairs SS recommendations.” Sorry, dude, never written about Simpson-Bowles Social Security recommendations. Maybe you’re thinking of “Cory Robin” as opposed to, um, me.

51

Marc 11.09.12 at 10:31 pm

The parsing of what Obama said by “catfood commission truthers” like DDay over at Digby really does remind me of listening to Republicans. At some point there is value in reading what people say at face value rather than asserting, yet again, evil intent.

Obama campaigned explicitly on raising taxes for the rich. He explicitly came out against cuts to beneficiaries for entitlements. I’ll trust him, not the word of people who hate him, on what he believes and what his goals are.

52

Omega Centauri 11.09.12 at 10:39 pm

Just as Obama might be able to offer the R’s a face saving tax increase for the rich with deduction caps only, I imagine he might have to swallow a stealth-regressive benefits cut, like raising the SS retirement age. As no-one outside of the policy wonk-o-sphere appreciates just how regressive that is, it is perfect political cover for horse trading with the R’s.

53

bob mcmanus 11.09.12 at 10:53 pm

31: like DDay over at Digby

David Dayen is now at Firedoglake, a fact that was a quick click away.

really does remind me of listening to Republicans.

Actually the willful ignorance of Obama supporters does remind of Republicans.

Obama campaigned explicitly on raising taxes for the rich.

One penny per million? That statement is nothing, nonsense. I can’t understand people who are comforted by such pablum and boilerplate.

Or maybe the key is “for the rich”, rather than on the rich. Is that what Obama really said? Can liberals get anything right?

54

Anarcissie 11.09.12 at 10:57 pm

rootless (@root_e) 11.09.12 at 8:40 pm:
‘Its absolutely bizarre to see the “left” buying into GOP caricatures of the left being mindlessly obsessed with government expenditure. Berwick left office stating that 1/3 of Medicare spending is stolen/wasted, which I think is a solid estimate, yet “the left” seems desperate to make sure that giant hospital chains and medical equipment franchisers keep raking in tax money.’

They are told that this is the price they have to pay to get anything.

55

LFC 11.09.12 at 11:22 pm

@Rootless

Speaking only for myself, I said nothing in this thread about my preferences re SS and Medicare. I simply said that they were likely to be on the table in a negotiation. So I will take it as given that you are not including me in your anathematizing (I hope that’s a word) of liberals who, according to you (important phrase), think every single penny spent by the govt on non-defense discretionary programs is “sacred.” B/c that wd not be my position.

56

Marc 11.09.12 at 11:25 pm

@53: If you didn’t pay any attention to his explicit policies on ending upper-income tax cuts I can’t help you. At some point there is a minimum degree of knowledge required for intelligent discussion.

57

LFC 11.09.12 at 11:26 pm

Nor anyone else’s position, I wd guess

58

LFC 11.09.12 at 11:27 pm

57 refers back to my 55

59

John Quiggin 11.09.12 at 11:42 pm

This does seem as clear-cut as we could reasonably hope for from the WH on the tax cuts issue.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/09/obama-veto-tax-cuts-for-the-rich_n_2103342.html?ncid=txtlnkushpmg00000029

The big question is what he’ll give away in return – maybe more accurately, how much he would like to cut before he even starts to compromise with the Repubs.

60

Lee A. Arnold 11.09.12 at 11:47 pm

I think it may help to remember that no policy is ever permanent in a democracy, so politicians will assume that the next President or Congress may change course anyway. So what they want to do is set up the next argument. Part of what the Dems accomplished, in agreeing upon spending reductions, was to set the blame upon the Republicans if those cuts ever took place. And why were the Republicans willing to agree to that? The Republicans were willing to kick that can, because they honestly thought they’d be dealing with a new Republican President, so they could just rewrite the whole thing, and pander to their own necessary constituencies such as Wall St. They didn’t figure on this. That is why Obama is unlikely to acquiesce to extending the tax cuts for the wealthiest. “Breaking the Republicans” on revenue increases comes right out of the debt-ceiling debacle last year, and sets up an important rhetorical principle going forward, because the economy is going to get slowly and surely get better (ceteris paribus, and barring a foolish move into austerity). Then Obama and the Democrats will take the credit, and it will happen AFTER increasing taxes on the wealthy. Establishing this point as a principle of economics — i.e., refuting supply-side Reaganomics once and for all with a new historical example (after the Clinton example, something that Bill has been at some pains to point-out in stumping for Obama) — refuting supply-side Reaganomics, is a very good thing to achieve. Because then we can start demonstrating the argument that government goods and services are sustainable if they are paid for annually, and such taxation does not hinder economic growth — in fact it may aid economic growth in certain needed sectors like the medical sector. I do not write, “refuting supply-side Reaganomics” for a snarky bunch of boneheads who might show up int these comment threads and will reply, “We already know that Supply-side Reaganomics is nonsense. So what?” Please try to remember that everyone isn’t quite as brilliant as you, and that a lot of the voting population cannot follow an intellectual argument in economics, but it understands the apparent reality. Indeed they may soon find that “fiscal cliff” presents no danger at all, even if we go over it for a few months — but EVERYONE is going to know that the Republicans are holding up the middle-class tax cut extensions. Look at the headline front-screen at the Washington Post, this very minute: “Obama calls on Congress to freeze middle-class tax rates immediately” A very nice move, close to checkmate.

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PJW 11.10.12 at 12:42 am

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Eric Titus 11.10.12 at 1:23 am

The consensus here seems to be that Obama is ok waiting the Republicans out. I’m inclined to agree, even as a progressive, because I don’t see the miniscule entitlement cuts in the sequester as really damaging those institutions.

The problem is that Obama has a number of other issues that he *wants* to get to: immigration reform, climate change, etc. And in order to get anything passed on those issues he is going to have to use to call out Republicans for stonewalling. The problem is that if the media is too busy talking about the excitingly-named “fiscal cliff,” that likely means no progress on other progressive issues.

So I would say that Obama should do the fiscal cliff dance for another half-week or so (maybe explicitly setting an end point for those discussions) and then get the ball rolling on either immigration reform (citing the election) or climate change (citing Sandy). Alternatively, if he has some sort of plan of action on the economy hidden up his sleeve, now might be a good time to roll it out.

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The Raven 11.10.12 at 1:29 am

Rootless, stop arguing like a Republican “unskewing” the polls.

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rootless (@root_e) 11.10.12 at 2:46 am

Rootless, stop arguing like a Republican “unskewing” the polls.

I guess I should take up DDayen level numerology and point out that while Obama has actually increased medicaid, following the Fibbonacci sequence to pick letters in Obama’s book and rotating them through the Gaelic translation of the General Theory backwards we learn that he dreams of destroying FDR’s legacy.

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rootless (@root_e) 11.10.12 at 2:48 am

So I will take it as given that you are not including me in your anathematizing

I would not dream of it.

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rootless (@root_e) 11.10.12 at 3:06 am

What’s most endearing about Dayen is his theory that duplicitous Obama needs to craft statements of support for social services with escape clauses. Apparently he’s going to eventually shout out something like “you didn’t pay attention to the number of the preposition, ha ha you blind fools” while killing Social Security. This is because statements by politicians are absolutely binding and must be subtly worded to allow the magical contract to be broken. Or something.

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The Raven 11.10.12 at 3:56 am

rootless, you’re even arguing like a Republican. Obama has said what he said; let’s not unskew it. He even mentioned deficit-reduction in his victory speech and he said next to nothing about jobs. I can’t see why. It doesn’t make political sense. But there it is.

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Glen Tomkins 11.10.12 at 5:50 am

Based on the record of the last four years, I wouldn’t expect Obama to do much but react to events. This isn’t really even meant as a criticism, as US politics and public policy making has gotten so dysfunctional that the only grand projects either side ever pushes through are invariably bad ideas that would have been better left undone. Dubya made all sorts of bold strokes, every one of them a fiasco.

Obama has done better by not doing much but reacting and counter-punching. I would say that’s a fair characterization of even his supposed signature grand project, the ACA. I work in the field, but I have little sense of what it is even supposed to do, or what problem it was designed to address. “Designed” seems overly charitable. It is more like its various features accreted under the pressures of its environment, as responses that insured its survival up to the point of its eventual birthing. Maybe it will thrive, maybe it will go extinct — who can know? But perhaps that’s the best we can do right now. We can’t design and build anything that makes sense as a plan for organizing the financing of health care on any sort of rational basis, anything like either National Health Insurance or a National Health System, we can just throw some embryonic form together, launch it into a hostile environment and hope it adapts and survives on its own. Evolution over Intelligent Design!

I have to admit that I am not very optimistic that this way of doing the people’s business will work well with health care financing, but much, much less so with the matter at hand, this bogus fiscal crisis. We got to this sequester precisely because just reacting to events failed, it let us get backed into a corner. Undoubtedly the difference is that health care financing is in crisis because impersonal (to some reasonable approximation) markets failed, while we have an all-too crafty, if not exactly rational, adversary actively seeking to bring about the failure of our fiscal regime. They are the folks with the grand project here, and if you are going to speculate about what anyone will do, you need to start with them. Our side will just be reacting to what they do. So far that has gone badly, and I see no reason to expect that will change. I will be happy to be surprised, I will be happy if Obama does anything beyond just reacting. Well, anything except joining the other side’s grand project.

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Bruce Wilder 11.10.12 at 6:38 am

Glen Tomkins: They are the folks with the grand project here, and if you are going to speculate about what anyone will do, you need to start with them. Our side will just be reacting to what they do . . .

And, what are the sides, and which side do you think Obama is on, again?

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Martin Bento 11.10.12 at 7:15 am

Lee, I’m half with you, but the inability of a current Congress to constrain a future one is asymmetric in effect, because the Dems will feel at least somewhat bound by their agreements, and the Repubs, as they proved by trying to strip just the military provisions from the sequester, will not. Hence, a Grand Bargain is Grand Tomfoolery for the Dems.. Also, I don’t see how agreeing to cuts sets up the Repubs to take the blame; it means the Dems are signed on and have to sell the result. Anything substantially bipartisan is pretty much beyond attack.

I do agree with breaking the Repubs on tax increases though. The Repub move now seems to be capping deductions. That can be good or bad, but I fear bad. Specifically, charity and arts funding in this country is largely subsidized in this indirect way, and all sorts of valuable non-profits will fail if the donations writeoff is touched.

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Pablo Aimar 11.10.12 at 9:16 am

I bet rootless (@root_e) has an Obama poster on his wall. A big one.

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Marc 11.10.12 at 1:10 pm

@67: Yes, he’s just promised to veto any bill that extends the Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans. Do *you* pay attention to what he says?

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rootless (@root_e) 11.10.12 at 2:00 pm

The Raven 11.10.12 at 3:56 am

rootless, you’re even arguing like a Republican. Obama has said what he said; let’s not unskew it. He even mentioned deficit-reduction in his victory speech and he said next to nothing about jobs. I can’t see why. It doesn’t make political sense. But there it is.

You mean:

Our Federal extravagance and improvidence bear a double evil; first, our people and our business cannot carry these excessive burdens of taxation; second, our credit structure is impaired by the unorthodox Federal financing made necessary by the unprecedented magnitude of these deficits.

Oh wait, that was Saint FDR.

On the other hand if we count the number of times Obama used “the” in his victory speech, 124, and use that as an index into the Testament of Meyer Rothschild, we get to a paragraph attacking the infield fly rule! So it is ominous in the extreme.

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Glen Tomkins 11.10.12 at 6:39 pm

Bruce Wilder, @69

Our side is mostly defined by opposition to the folks who, these days, are the people with the grand projects. That would be the Republican Party and conservative movement. The roles were reversed 70-80 years ago, and perhaps between then and now, you could define another sort of period, during which nobody had grand projects or, (and I’m thinking of thr Cold War), the grand projects were bipartisan.

Of course, it is a defining feature of a “side” that is, as ours is right now, essentially reactionary, that it is heterogenous in terms of what it’s for. We’re against the people who are at war with sense and reason, but we often have quite different reasons and sensibilities.

Which is all a long way of answering that I have no idea what Obama is for. It is quite possible that he isn’t for much except stopping the Republicans. Not that I see that as a downside. Not much is clear in politics and public policy, but the idea that people willing to win elections by starting wars and appealing to racism need to be sent to the showers seems to me to make the cut of clear and obvious things that reasonable people should be able to agree on. My dissatisfaction with Obama is based less on where I think he might not be for what I’m for, than on his often not being very good at stopping the Republicans.

But I don’t read back from his failures at stopping the other side’s grand plans, the conclusion that he must be secretly in league with them, that he must share their ideology. Take this sequestration deal that is the cause of this “fiscal cliff” that is the subject of this thread. I thought, and wrote, at the time of the debt ceiling shake-down by the other side, that the administration should have simply refused to negotiate with the hostage-takers, and Treasury should simply have ignored the ceiling and carried on issuing enough debt to cover the legal obligations of the US. Had more people agreed with me, perhaps Obama would have felt that he could do this, but our side, again, almost by definition, doesn’t go in for grand schemes and grand gestures. Obama is no Andrew Jackson, but our side is also not the Democratic Party of 1830 — and, all in all, that’s almost certainly for the better.

So, sure, you can see in the sequestration deal that Obama did instead of defying Congress, evidence that he agrees with the Rs, that he and they are basically both corporatists or something. You could be right. But it’s also possible that Obama is simply no Andrew Jackson, that he did not feel that breaking the debt ceiling law — however much breaking that law might have been necessary to following all the laws requiring Treasury to honor the just debts of the US — was something that our disorganized, purely reactionary, side would support. So he did something ill-advised, got us trapped in the present “fiscal cliff” dilemma, by agreeing to this sequestration deal.

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rootless (@root_e) 11.10.12 at 7:08 pm

” So he did something ill-advised, got us trapped in the present “fiscal cliff” dilemma, by agreeing to this sequestration deal.”

To me, and I’m not alone in this, your take is 100% wrong. Basically Obama won the last debt ceiling game of chicken and forced the GOP not only to give in but to hurriedly accept the sequestration deal they did not have presence of mind to examine. Now the GOP is facing expiration of tax cuts at the same time as massive cuts to programs championed by their supporters – with the Admin having a lot of latitude about how to implement the cuts. The tricks proposed by progressives would have benefited the right: they could have held the line on the debt without suffering any consequences at all. The fiscal cliff is not a problem for Democrats – as several have said and even Krugman has noticed. The progressives, with their echo chamber in which everyone accepts the premise that Obama is weak and stupid and/or a secret Reaganite-Austerian keeps mispredicting and then doubling down.

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Andrew F. 11.10.12 at 8:09 pm

Every member of Congress has an interest in avoiding a second recession. Every member in Congress will want to make a deal, and will work to do so (I should say almost every member – this is Congress we’re talking about, after all).

So even if I grant your view of Obama’s policy preferences (I don’t agree with your view), Obama still must be an active and constructive player in a deal if he wants to remain on good terms with either party, and for that matter with the public generally. If he cares at all about getting other policies through Congress, about having sufficient political support on a range of foreign policy initiatives, about his legacy, about his reputation, he’ll try quite hard to make a deal.

The White House has sent every signal possible that the sequestration defense cuts won’t happen – from the President’s public comments to the Department of Labor’s directive to military contractors that they need not issue warning of layoffs resulting from the sequestration cuts because those cuts are highly unlikely to occur – indeed the US Government has indemnified military contractors for any liability they may face for not issuing such warning notices.

I see a deal as the most likely outcome. In fact, with Obama in his second term, and the GOP doing some re-thinking, I’d place the risky wager that we’ll see more cooperation generally between the two parties in Congress.

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Glen Tomkins 11.10.12 at 9:30 pm

@74,

By “the tricks proposed by progressives”, I assume you mean the platinum coin thing, or the 14th Amendment thing. I certainly agree that these would have been perceived as tricks, and potentially torpedoed by an unfriendly SCOTUS. The much preferable course would have been the simple, non-tricky option of announcing that, as regrettable a step as it is to ignore any law, exceeding the debt ceiling would have compelled Treasury to set aside either the ceiling law or the thousands of laws obligating spending. In that situation, the administration could have said it had no choice but to interpret the ceiling law as applying only to Congress, and not to Treasury, which would go on meeting the legal obligations of the US despite Congressional failure to revise the ceiling. But that would have been the alternative to agreeing to what the Rs wanted, breaking some law or other. While I think it would have been better to take the lumps on law-breaking up front, I can certainly see that Obama would not want to do that, not being Andrew Jackson and such. If Obama were Andrew Jackson, he would have asked for a declaration of war on South Carolina by now — not a bad idea in its own right — but he’s not. More importantly, he doesnt have a militant party at his back, as Jackson did.

I have to admit that I don’t follow the argument of how sequestration is supposed to be of any benefit to any sort of Democratic or progressive, or even just anti-Republican, goals. If it were such a great idea for our side, why did we have to be black-mailed into it? Why did the Rs risk being perceived as willing to push the US into defaulting on its just debts, just to get Obama to agree to something so much in our favor?

I certainly wish that a “defense” budget at current levels, as opposed to 80% of current levels, was something that only the other side valued. I think that we could cut our military spending by closer to 90% than 20%, with absolutely no decrement to our defense. But I’ld be overjoyed with a mere 20% cut, and if this sequestration thing turns out to be some sort of 11th dimensional chess ploy to get 20%, I’ll start going to church again. But it wasn’t, and my leisure on Sundays is not in danger. I’m sure there are other Dems, progressives and other anti-Republicans who actually want 20% cuts, but we clearly aren’t anywhere near a majority on our side. If Obama is of our number, I wouldn’t expect him to act on that, given the overwhelming lack of support for that on our side, and I think we have to take seriously his professed determination that the military cuts will simply not happen.

But if that’s how it’s to be, no sequestration, and sequestration is the law of the land, and if repealing a law still requires both chambers, then the House Rs still have us by the short hairs. We’re not going to kill their hostage, military spending, because our side values it as much as they do. But they would be quite happy to see the 20% cuts in domestic spending, if only temporarily for some of them. We got ourselves out of their last hostage-taking by agreeing to give another hostage, and that without even getting a permanent end to the threat that they will use the ceiling again for blackmail. All we got was a delay in the reckoning. Had we won the House, a delay would have been good enough, we could just repeal the sequester. But we didn’t, did we?

It’s a nice thought that that our side could somehow use our leverage from the expiration of the tax cuts to get out of the sequester mess. But they have leverage there as well, our side doesn’t want a tax hike on people who generate demand and vote for our side. We’ll be lucky to get anything better than a blanket restoration just within the tax question. I don’t see our side having any leverage left over to influence other issues like the sequester.

One possibility for getting out of this would be to do at this late date what we should have done over the ceiling, and simply declare the sequester unenforceable without violating other law obligating spending. But I’m not sure that argument is really true of the sequester, that it could not be implemented without breaking other law. Even if true, unlike the ceiling, the sequester clearly was intended to force cuts of some sort, and our side voted for it clearly under that understanding. How can we announce now that the sequester cannot legally be implemented, even if that’s true, without indicting ourselves for the fraud of voting for it?

The sequester was and is a trap, and for our side, not theirs. It’s just sets up a more effective hostage than the debt ceiling. Our only realistic hope is that the other side implodes, or loses its nerve, and fails to press its advantage. It doesn’t have real leadership, and it has had a nasty shock. But they got the sequester accomplished without real leadership, and they do, if they keep their nerve, have the advantage here.

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rootless (@root_e) 11.10.12 at 10:16 pm

@76 if you think that GOP congressmen can nonchalantly look at the prospects of e.g. a $4B to air force procurement then you are kidding yourself.

Meanwhile many of the human services cuts are nonsense – like the $4B not being paid into Medicare part A insurance -something that has no effect except on an accounting measure.

” If it were such a great idea for our side, why did we have to be black-mailed into it? “

This is assuming your conclusion.

“Why did the Rs risk being perceived as willing to push the US into defaulting on its just debts, just to get Obama to agree to something so much in our favor?”

Because they had assumed he would cave and got really close to the deadline and panicked. Wall Street was NOT HAPPY with this game.

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Glen Tomkins 11.10.12 at 11:28 pm

@77,

Let me see if I understand what you’re claiming. Obama arranged to be publicly black-mailed into doing something he really wanted to do, create a sequester, or did he just luck into that? His co-c0nspirators (dupes?) in the House actually wanted to get something else from their ceiling blackmail, but then, instead of just backing down as the deadline neared and passing a rise in the ceiling, as they wanted to at that point because they either never intended to carry out their threat to kill the hostage, or because they were surprised that Wall Street would not be happy to see the US default, were able to be stampeded in their haste and panic into something averse to their cause, the sequester?

I certainly understand the desire to find some rational explanation for all this, to find some grand design behind the confusing welter of observable facts. I just don’t see that your proposed unmasking of the “real” truth behind the mess we can all see, actually makes things any less confusing. To compare a tragedy to this (so far!) farce, it’s like the start of WWI, a real cock-up, serving no one’s interests and planned by no one. That’s the problem, no one looked more than one move ahead. All sorts of really clever people, little sawed-off Richelieus, scheming really stupid short-sighted little schemes, have got us in a real mess. The only conspiracy here is a conspiracy of dunces.

I only take sides because one set of dunces has taken up wrecking as fixed vocation. The other set can be trusted to shoot themselves in the foot reliably enough, they’re no threat.

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rootless (@root_e) 11.11.12 at 12:04 am

But the “public blackmail” is not a fact, it is an invention of the “progressive” echo chamber. The bare facts are very clear: GOP attempted to extort major cuts in social services by holding the debt limit hostage. The administration gave in on nearly nothing – marginal bits here and there, nothing like the slashing of Medicaid, the ending of Planned Parenthood funding, all the poison pill legislation etc. that they began by demanding. The GOP, under immense pressure from Wall St. gave in and not only extended the debt limit, but extended it way past the election. They also agreed to a sequestration trigger that they claimed was a win, but even at the time, many observers noted was a disaster for them. Romney agreed:

“I thought it was a mistake on the part of the White House to propose it. I think it was a mistake for Republicans to go along with it,” he adds.

The debt-ceiling deal was forged by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Vice President Joe Biden hours before the United States was set to exceed its debt ceiling and begin defaulting on its obligations.

Of course, at the time Boehner claimed a win and people like Dayen who believe everything the GOP says swallowed it whole.

But now even Krugman has figured it out:

It’s worth pointing out that the fiscal cliff isn’t really a cliff. It’s not like the debt-ceiling confrontation, where terrible things might well have happened right away if the deadline had been missed. This time, nothing very bad will happen to the economy if agreement isn’t reached until a few weeks or even a few months into 2013. So there’s time to bargain.

More important, however, is the point that a stalemate would hurt Republican backers, corporate donors in particular, every bit as much as it hurt the rest of the country. As the risk of severe economic damage grew, Republicans would face intense pressure to cut a deal after all.

and he is not the only one.
http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-11-07/obamas-holding-the-cards

But if you start your analysis from the axiom that the Democrats always suck, you reach the conclusion that they suck. That’s just not a very illuminating way to go about an analysis.

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Glen Tomkins 11.11.12 at 2:44 am

You’re right that they didn’t get cuts in the social safety net immediately in exchange for giving up the hostage of the debt ceiling, temporarily. They got no immediate cuts. What they got was a better hostage, the automatic, “Doomsday machine”, sequester cuts that would be triggered if the two parties failed to reach an agreement on deficit reduction. We have failed to reach such an agreement, and now Doomsday looms. We are back to where we were in the fake debt ceiling crisis, only they have a better hostage, they have a hostage that our side cannot, if only as a final desperate measure, simply refuse to implement, as we could have with the debt ceiling.

You are absolutely right that killing any of these hostages — the full faith and credit of the US, 20% of the defense budget, even 20% of the domestic spending at risk — has its downside for them. Only their extremists actually want the hostages killed as a good in itself. The analogy to the game of chicken catches that aspect of the situation, that if neither side swerves, both sides crash. But their side entered into this game of chicken, calculating, correctly, that our side would be the one to swerve, and even their folks who are not eager to see any hostages harmed were persuaded to go along with hostage taking as a tactic, as something that would get them an advantage without their having to go through with any executions of hostages.

Victory for our side, their side swerving, would have involved the Rs simply slinking off into the night after having voted a rise in the ceiling despite our refusal to pay any ransom. But we did give up a ransom, the agreement to negotiate massive cuts, with no undertaking from their side to include tax rises, and we had to give up the automatic sequester as a fresh, better, hostage for our compliance with such a deal. And because we gave them that hostage, and haven’t agreed to a deal, here we are, needing to do whatever they demand to avoid the sequester.

It really doesn’t matter that they would not actually be happy to see 20% cuts in the military. What matters for this game of chicken is that our side has already lost this game by making clear that we will swerve, that we not only don’t like these cuts, but critically, we will not abide them. Obama has made quite clear, has made very public, very categorical statements, that we will not under any circumstances allow the triggered cuts. We’re the responsible ones (well, if you consider the 100% military budget as it stands vital to our security and thus its preservation a high responsibility. I don’t, maybe you don’t, but most of our side, and categorically Obama, are quite publicly committed to not allowing any of these cuts in the military.), they’re not. We’re going to be the ones to swerve, we’re going to pay them off to avoid the collision.

As for Krugman’s comments, I believe the context is his advice that nothing be traded away in the lame duck session. That’s certainly sound advice, but he’s giving that advice because he recognizes that we are going to have to pay a price to extricate ourselves from this mess eventually. He just wants the price lower, he wants a better bargain, and believes that a deal in the next Congress will be better than in the lame duck. And the bad consequences he refers to are the ultimate, economic consequences of reduced govt spending. But there will be problems right away in the new year with people the US owes not getting paid in full, and all the trouble that will entail. We’re going to have to give something just to get a delay of the wider deal into the new year, in order to avoid those complications.

As for the Dems always sucking,well, we do have an impressive track record in that respect. And just because the Rs are looking paper tigerish about now, and Rove hardly the unbeatable Boy Genius that too many of us let him convince us he was, doesn’t mean that we can’t suck, too. The suck is not an exclusive franchise. Again, my beef is not so much with ideological variance from the ideal. That’s an inherent defect in a two-party system. What I find hard to tolerate is that we don’t do a good job of just opposing the Republicans, all ideology aside, purely as a matter of good, go-for-the-jugular, militant partisanship. We systematically validate the false fears mongered by the other side, the false fears that are the sole remaning sum and substance of the appeal of a party that has reduced itself to nothing more than a bundle of fears and hatreds. In this particular context, Obama amazingly agreed that yes, the deficit was about to murder us all in our beds, and yes, we absolutely had to do something, now, to rein it in. What’s left to do after that but to concede, to pay off the hostage-takers? You’ve just helped them pretend to the police/voting public, that they didn’t kidnap the baby at all, they were just looking after the tyke. No wonder Obama was left with no answer but a drop jaw in that first debate when Romney touted his credentials at attaining bipartisan accomplishment in MA. Obama had gone along with the pretence at the time of the sequester deal that it was a grand bipartisan bit of real statesmanship on both sides, a major step forward in our common fight against the Demon Deficit.

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John Quiggin 11.11.12 at 3:07 am

Looking a little way ahead, it’s interesting that the Repubs seem to be convinced, for now, that the 2014 midterms will be a replay of 2010. My thought is that, if the US goes over the cliff, fails to raise the debt limit etc, the public will be looking for someone to blame, and the House will be the only one on offer. If Obama hangs tough for the next two years, and filibuster reform goes through, he could easily spend his last two years with a majority in both houses.

However, I don’t think he will hang that tough, and I’m not sure he really wants a majority.

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rootless (@root_e) 11.11.12 at 3:11 am

We are back to where we were in the fake debt ceiling crisis, only they have a better hostage, they have a hostage that our side cannot, if only as a final desperate measure, simply refuse to implement, as we could have with the debt ceiling.

I’m struggling to imagine the GOP House leadership ignoring calls from Lockheed and Cargil. I don’t see any serious immediate pain for the Democrats, however. Nobody is even going to notice less money in the Medicare trust fund for a decade. The cuts to important social programs are backloaded. The Administration decides exactly how cuts are implemented. No, I think and it’s clear that the GOP understands that the pain will be theirs. If I was in the Admin I would play this out to the hilt and destroy GOP House solidarity.

I really suggest Mike Grunwald’s book as an antidote to the GOP Propaganda at FDL and other such sites. This administration has certainly screwed up a number of times, but the GOP narrative of weak Democratic patsies is bullshit. First term of the Obama administration, against much stronger opposition and with much weaker allies, made much more fundamental changes in the economy than FDRs first term.

As for the deficit, I agree with Obama. The debt is a method of transferring tax receipts to rentiers. And a huge percentage of public expenditure has been captured by what they used to call “profiteers”. Furthermore, as a political issue, its remarkable to see so many authoritative proclamations of what the public thinks, issued by people who have never studied the subject or run a campaign yet who are convinced that the cutting edge data crunchers in the WH, after capturing the highest office twice against a flood of corporate money are stupid and naive. The WH certainly may be wrong, but I’d bet the percentages in this case. I’m reminded of teaching engineering when smartass freshmen would come in and kindly explain to me how some principle developed by a well known genius and used with success many times was clearly wrong. Of course it is possible that some smart 17 year old will reveal the work of experts to be crap, but …

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rootless (@root_e) 11.11.12 at 3:37 am

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mds 11.11.12 at 3:37 am

If Obama hangs tough for the next two years, and filibuster reform goes through, he could easily spend his last two years with a majority in both houses.

Sorry to get all repeaty, but no. Post-2010 census gerrymandering has made GOP control of the House well-nigh impossible to break until either (1) Democrats regain control of more state legislatures and indulge in off-year de/re-gerrymandering; (2) the 2020 census provides the ability to undo the damage in time for 2022; or (3) demographic destiny overwhelms even the flagrant PA-OH-MI gerrymanders. None of those things are particularly likely to give Obama a Democratic House majority in 2015, whether he hangs tough or not.

That said,

and I’m not sure he really wants a majority.

is somewhat plausible, given that the above fiasco resulted in part from the Democratic GOTV operation of 2008 largely disarming after the presidential election. Obama was not particularly inclined to get involved in backing House candidates this year, either.

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John Quiggin 11.11.12 at 4:52 am

Gerrymandering is over-rated, IMHO. The central idea is to lock up your opponent’s vote in a few safe districts, while spreading your own more thinly. But that runs the risk of a complete wipe-out if the swing against you is bigger than anticipated. For example, a uniform 5 per cent swing in the three states you mention would (by my count) gain 11 seats for the Dems. That would be most of the way to a House majority.

To look at it slightly differently, the House vote was divided almost evenly, and the Repubs came out with a majority 0f 40. Taking that as the headstart, the Dems have to do about as well as they did in 2008, or as well as the Repubs in 2010 to get a majority.

A reliably liberal majority would need a slightly larger majority to avoid dependence on Blue Dogs and/or old-style Southern Democrats. But it looks as if there will only be a dozen or so Blue Dogs in this Congress and hopefully some of those will be primaried out next time. I’m not so sure about Southern Dems, but there can’t be many left. Taking account of the departure of Nelson, Lieberman and others from the Senate, a Dem Congress would present Obama with plenty of challenges as well as opportunities if he chose to take them,

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js. 11.11.12 at 6:14 am

However, I don’t think he will hang that tough, and I’m not sure he really wants a majority.

I agree with both halves of this, and the second half is frankly disturbing. Why wouldn’t you after all want your own party to be in majority in the House? Unless of course CR is right and Obama is an austerian at heart, and thinks that a Dem majority in the House would thwart him, or at least make things a lot more difficult for him. Then it does make sense. (Not that there couldn’t be other explanations, but this makes a hell of a lot of sense.)

More generally, though, I’d tend to agree that if it comes down to slidin’ down the “Cliff” vs. striking a grandiose-y “Bargain”, let’s slide! Given the state of the Dems, the slide’s bound to be less painful for most people affected. Especially over time. Not that those are—or ought to be—the only two choices.

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Martin Bento 11.11.12 at 10:44 am

On wanting a majority, I think his position on the primary challenge to Blanche Lincoln was a real tell. To recap, Lincoln had opposed the Employee Free Choice Act and the Public Option, threatening to join a Republican filibuster of the latter. Accordingly, progressives and the unions backed a primary challenge to her from Bill Halter. Polls showed Lincoln was doomed in the general. Halter was also behind, but was the stronger of the two in the general, according to the polls. Though Obama stayed out of it, his chief of staff Rahm, backed Lincoln and taunted the unions after she squeaked through in the primary (to badly lose the general, as expected). He was willing to undermine the bparty’s prospects rather than see a successful primary challenge from the left.

It makes sense for the centrists to betray the party. Their agenda and their own power is best maximized by a closely divided government with their party in a slight majority. With Dems holding the White House and Senate, not holding the House keeps the aggregate majority effectively “slight”. I posted about how this is precisely what one should logically expect from centrists years ago here:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/11/13/270762/-James-Carville-Why-Centrists-Logically-Become-Traitors

The campaign of George McGovern, the only real progressive Democratic candidate we’re had in the post-war era, was a great illustration: many prominent democrats allied with Nixon against him.

89

rootless (@root_e) 11.11.12 at 12:45 pm

Wow, talk about 11dimensional chess.

90

mds 11.11.12 at 3:15 pm

For example, a uniform 5 per cent swing in the three states you mention would (by my count) gain 11 seats for the Dems.

Um, I’d ordinarily defer to political science expertise here, but I wonder if you are aware of the composition of the more Republican regions of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. A uniform 5 percent swing that includes the most reactionary theocratic elements of the modern Republican Party? Against the continuing drumbeat of Fox News and the Religious Right declaring that America is doomed if the far-left fundamentalist Muslim has a free hand? How about flying unicorns, while we’re at it? I would note that the off-year Republican-controlled redistricting of Texas did a fine job insulating that state from any massive swing in 2006 and 2008 (E.g., Nick Lampson lasted only a single term in TX-22). One merely needs to make a few districts overwhelmingly Democratic, while being sufficiently confident of one’s base in the other districts. And as Steve King and Michele Bachmann, among others, demonstrate, that confidence in the GOP base is not usually misplaced. Indeed, even as Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, and New Hampshire voters took steps to correct 2010′s state legislative outcomes, the Ohio legislature remained firmly Republican, and even plans to reintroduce controversial abortion-banning legislation next week.

So one could attribute the status quo to Obama’s desires, and even his machinations, or one could decide that it’s merely a political reality he’s stuck with. Either way, its existence will have to factor into any Democratic plans to deal with the fiscal gentle incline, the debt ceiling, etc., for the next four years at a minimum.

(And yes, if anyone were even to remember this, I’d be setting myself up to eat crow if 2014 turns into the year where massive gerrymandering and the general off-year election trend don’t matter. If, for instance, the House goes ahead with impeachment for being a Kenyan usurper who wears the wrong brand of socks, all bets are off. In which case, I’ll happily leave the feathers on.)

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Donald Johnson 11.11.12 at 6:55 pm

I don’t think you have to believe in some mystical 11-D chess playing prowess by Obama (whether used for good or evil) to understand him. He’s a centrist and the Republicans have gone far far right-everything that has happened in the past several years follows from that. Obama badly wants center-right Republicans he can strike deals with–so far they don’t seem to exist.

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John B. Egan 11.11.12 at 8:09 pm

People ‘clearly’ misunderstand Obama. He is not anti-energy (look at how much oil/gas we produce), he is not anti-war (we’re still in Iraq and Afghanistan and we’re droning the heck out of more countries than you can count), he is not anti Wall St (look at the stock market), he is not anti Main St (look at his bailout of the auto industry and loans to startups), and he is not a wild and free crazed liberal (look at his anti marijuana activities). I suspect people have just listened to all the anti-Obama rhetoric from the right wing over the last few years. He doesn’t respond much to criticisms unless he has to (consider his lack of response to the Birther silliness.) In fact, he really is into compromise. Remember how as a new President he actually used to walk over to the Republicans to reach agreements until he realized it was a wasted effort? We will see a compromise on the fiscal cliff that includes some tax increases and some modifications to ‘entitlements’. This is how politics has worked for ever. Don’t expect a big deal resolution. Expect something that both sides can live with, which won’t fix our problem anyway. BTW, I’m all for jumping over the fiscal cliff. Only then will we get anything like real action.

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rootless (@root_e) 11.11.12 at 8:36 pm

Obama badly wants center-right Republicans he can strike deals with–so far they don’t seem to exist.

One interesting fact is that all the key legislation of the first 2 years passed on pretty much party line votes. Three Republicans voted for the Stimulus – one became a Democrat, 2 other have retired. Yet the “progressives” insist that Obama wants compromise etc.

And then the theory that Obama secretly wants a GOP House is really at the level of “Global warming is a plot by scientists to get grants”.

Obama’s priorities have been exactly those he outlined in his 2008 campaign. People who are surprised were not paying attention.

94

Mao Cheng Ji 11.11.12 at 9:40 pm

“Obama’s priorities have been exactly those he outlined in his 2008 campaign.”

Is this, in your opinion, a unique quality of Obama – that he does exactly what he said he’d do – or is this true for most politicians?

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John Quiggin 11.11.12 at 10:53 pm

@MDS I’m not a political scientist – I just looked at the election results on Wikipedia and found those closer than 55-45. That said, I’m unconvinced by your argument. As regards the gerrymander, designing a 55-45 district where the 55 are all hardcore theocrats seems a bit too hard to be done consistently.

As regards Fox News and the Religious right, they were stronger in 2008, and the Dems won by more than 40 seats. That was with the aid of Obama enthusiasm, but I don’t see why disgust with Repub obstructionism shouldn’t be equally powerful.

96

John Quiggin 11.11.12 at 10:56 pm

Apologies for the speculation on whether Obama really wants a majority. Operationally, I don’t think it makes much difference – he’ll decide to fight or not depending on whether it looks like a win for the WH, and that’s much the same as a loss for the House Reps, unless he still believes in the idea of a grand bargain.

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Marc 11.12.12 at 1:02 am

@95: The racial voting and residential patterns in the US make it very, very easy to pack enormous Democratic majorities in a small number of districts. Ohio is 12-4 and we just got half of the votes. The best that we could realistically hope for here is 10-6 (e.g. 10 of the districts have insurmountable Republican tilts). A five percent statewide swing is an enormous demographic change, and it can happen – the Republicans had to give the Democrats a district in Columbus because the partisan margins got too large for them to keep Republicans everywhere. But if you can redraw every 10 years you can get ahead of most demographic shifts.

I think that people are underestimating how well we can track voting patterns on a very granular level and how sophisticated the programs designed to draw the districts have become. Nationwide we just had the Democrats get a majority of the votes for House members and the Republicans retained a comfortable majority. I think that’s a pretty realistic measure of the power of the gerrymander, and I predict that

98

Marc 11.12.12 at 1:09 am

Or, to put it another way, if you can pack the members of one party into 75%+ districts, which is easy with modern computers and US racial voting patterns, then you can keep them in the voting minority almost indefinitely.

99

Corey Robin 11.12.12 at 5:03 am

Bob Woodward provided a previously secret document to NBC this morning that outlines quite specifically what Obama was willing to give to the Republicans last summer. Haven’t read it that carefully but figured I’d post it here. http://presspass.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/11/11/15089281-white-house-grand-bargain-offer-to-speaker-boehner-obtained-by-bob-woodward#__utma=238145375.1160293964.1343333706.1352063009.1352694519.34&__utmb=238145375.18.9.1352695347972&__utmc=238145375&__utmx=-&__utmz=238145375.1352694519.34.26.utmcsr=google|utmccn=%28organic%29|utmcmd=organic|utmctr=%28not%20provided%29&__utmv=238145375.|8=Earned%20By=msnbc|meet%20the%20press|meet%20the%20press=1^12=Landing%20Content=Mixed=1^13=Landing%20Hostname=www.msnbc.msn.com=1^30=Visit%20Type%20to%20Content=Earned%20to%20Mixed=1&__utmk=60500718&__utma=238145375.1160293964.1343333706.1352063009.1352694519.34&__utmb=238145375.18.9.1352695347972&__utmc=238145375&__utmx=-&__utmz=238145375.1352694519.34.26.utmcsr=google|utmccn=%28organic%29|utmcmd=organic|utmctr=%28not%20provided%29&__utmv=238145375.|8=Earned%20By=msnbc|meet%20the%20press|meet%20the%20press=1^12=Landing%20Content=Mixed=1^13=Landing%20Hostname=www.msnbc.msn.com=1^30=Visit%20Type%20to%20Content=Earned%20to%20Mixed=1&__utmk=60500718

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Glen Tomkins 11.12.12 at 2:27 pm

@83,

Only a fringe on the other side actually wants the sequester to go into effect. Of course defense contractors and other highly influential actors don’t want the cuts. Almost no one does. But that’s the whole point of the sequester, to be something so universally undesirable that both sides would agree to serious deficit reduction in order to avoid the sequester being triggered. The other characterization of the ceiling “crisis” and this fiscal cliff “crisis”, is as a game of chicken, with both sides wishing to avoid collision, but both also motivated to create the impression that they are too insane enough to accept a head-on crash to avoid losing.

That’s how you win a game of chicken, not by causing a crash, but by using your “superior” willingness to tolerate a crash to get the other side to back down before the crash, and give you what you want, which is not a crash. If the Rs had actually wanted to push the US into default, if they actually wanted the sequester cuts now, there would be no point of negotiating with us, because they could and can force those results just with their House majority. They want something else, but here’s where it gets complicated, in that it isn’t clear that they really want anything beyond pretty negligible spending cuts (certainly nothing big enough to offset the further tax cuts they also want, much less actually get any deficit reduction done), vs, they are just using a fiscal “crisis” that they realize is quite phony, in order to get an end to SocSec and Medicare the only politically viable way, by getting the Ds to jump off that cliff with them. Since not-obviously-crazy observers expect some degree of just that happening, our side agreeing to some degree of “reform” of the social safety net in order to make the sequester go away, I think you have say that the other side has been successful at this game of chicken.

The problem, from our side’s point of view, with the rules of this game of chicken we set up when we agreed to the sequester, is that there is an asymmetry of things at risk. They were given a hostage of domestic spending that at least some of their crazies might not be averse to killing, and a majority are not categorically averse to killing, while our side was given a hostage, defense spending, that almost no one on our side (in power, in Congress or the WH. There’s always DFH America-haters such as myself who must want to see al Qaeda murder all of us in our beds, or how could we want one penny of “defense” spending taken away?) values less than their mother’s lives. So Obama and every other D (in power) who has said anything on the subject has made categorical statements of utter fealty to not tolerating one penny of defense cuts. That sort of takes away any credibility that our side won’t swerve first. We’ve already sworn blood oaths, in public, to do just that. It’s not that their side is at all willing to offend defense contractors, it’s that our side has assured them that it will never actually come to that, because we are determined to give them something to prevent the head-on collision.

Just to complete the picture as I see it, because of the election, even though they could extort something from our side because we did not get the trifecta, and can’t just can the sequester law on our own, they may no longer wish to press that advantage. For one thing, as already referred to, most of them don’t really want deficit reduction, and many of them don’t want to end the safety net, and a recurring pattern since the ceiling crisis, is that their side can never close a deal because they are only united insofar as it’s been purely to humiliate our side, purely as a wrecking maneuver. They divide as the prospect looms that they have won, that our side is willing to give them something, because they don’t really want anything but for our car to crash. Since the election, they fear that too-obvious delight in wrecking may be bad for their electability. Boehner may not actually have been just blowing smoke on the conference call when he called on his caucus to not stage any crises this Congress. Had they got the Senate, they might have thought that this is the time to extort the Grand Bargain that ends the social safety net, and the sequester is the means to that end. But they didn’t get the Senate, they were turned back, and they have some fear of being seen as extremists and bomb throwers. I see them cooling it at the federal level, and trying instead to use their control at the state level, especially where they control states that are blue in federal elections, to get more effective and broader-based voter suppression in place so that these states will not vote blue in the future, will not slip ever further from their grasp with demographic shifts. I suspect that the demographic cliff, not the fiscal cliff, is where the next battles will be. And those battles will be at the state level, since our sorry excuse for a constitution leaves voting eligibility to the tender mercies of the states.

Of course they will still make some effort to get something out of the sequester. I just doubt that they will press it too far, will be willing to stage too much of a fight, or want to be seen as more willing to crash both cars. Therefore, our side should give nothing, and insist on a simple, clean and unencumbered repeal of the sequester as the only way back from this phony “fiscal cliff”.

101

rootless (@root_e) 11.12.12 at 3:16 pm

Since not-obviously-crazy observers expect some degree of just that happening, our side agreeing to some degree of “reform” of the social safety net in order to make the sequester go away, I think you have say that the other side has been successful at this game of chicken.

The “sensible” media, which supports cuts to those programs always sees signs that the Democrats are coming to their senses and agreeing. The “progressive” media, which wants and expects Democrats to fulfill predictions (at long last) finds these signs as reported by the sensible media exceptionally persuasive. But if we step back from chicken entrail reading and look at what the GOP House majority has won since 2010, there is precious little basis for all this corporate media/”progressive” consensus.

I will also note that the “progressives” seem deeply unwilling to go beyond the 30,000 foot level and look at details of spending. Some of us might think that reducing federal expenditures for e.g. $200/gallon gasoline in Afghanistan and Iraq or for subsidies to insurance companies does not have a negative effect on the economy, but some apparently interpret Keynes in a simplistic, not to say dogmatic, way and find any cuts at all to be heretical evidence of, what was it, oh yeah, austerian reactionary keynsianism ( makes the sign to ward off the evil eye). To me, and I know, since Professor Robin has kindly explained this to me, that I am a failed liberal, medicare is not a perfect program and could do with some reform. I do not agree that Paul Ryan’s notion of reform is dispositive. Similarly, I think that the Bowles-Simpson proposal that people who come into Social Security should be guaranteed a pension above the poverty line is a good idea.

102

Josh G. 11.12.12 at 5:46 pm

Let’s look at what the so-called “fiscal cliff” actually consists of:
* End of the Bush tax cuts, and a return to the Clinton-era tax rates.
* End of the temporary payroll tax cut.
* The “sequester”, which is a package of cuts for both the military and domestic discretionary spending.
If nothing is done by Congress, all of the above will happen, since it’s already codified in present law.

Now, from a progressive standpoint, what I want is to keep the middle-class tax cuts (both payroll and income) at least temporarily, while ending the tax cuts for the rich. I also want the military spending cuts to go through, but the cuts in domestic discretionary spending to be repealed.
However, since there is currently a Republican House of Representatives, that isn’t all going to happen. The question becomes whether we can make a compromise that is better than the default option of just letting the “fiscal cliff” take effect. Paul Krugman contends that given Republican intransigence, it might be better to just let the cliff happen, and I tend to agree. The fact is that letting it happen gives Democrats more negotiating leverage. From a political point of view, Republicans are going to have a very hard time justifying a vote against bringing back the tax cuts for the middle class (I can hardly wait to see what contortions Grover Norquist pulls to explain this). From a policy point of view, Republicans really, really care about extending the tax cuts for the rich. Let’s see how much we can get out of them in exchange for another extension of a couple years. Just agreeing to rescind the existing cuts to domestic spending is not enough; we ought to demand significantly more. We know they want it badly; now what are they willing to give up to get it?

103

Glen Tomkins 11.12.12 at 7:35 pm

@101,

If it were just the media reporting that Dems are likely to trade away the safety net, if only under the name of “reforming” it, then I would certainly expect angry denunciations of that idea from the Dem leadership, I would expect statements as categorical that they will not yield an inch on the safety net as what we’ve actually heard from them about not yielding an inch on keeping defense spending 100% intact. Whatever happened to Mediscare? Why wasn’t Mediscare the top ten things every Dem outlet was blasting in an election where the Rs were allowed to walk away with lopsided margins of support among the over-65 crowd?

I’m sure the geniuses in our party have the usual penny-wise, pound-foolish answer to that. They probably focus-grouped a Mediscare strategy and found it insufficiently rewarding because we had lost the 0ver-65s on culture war issues. But their strange silence on the Mediscare front does have many convinced that Obama actually wants to end the safety net. I honestly don’t know what to think on the subject of our leadership’s “real” intentions.

But I do know this, they’ve either sold out, or they really, really have no clue about opposing the other side. Both sides have to use fear, because, really, none of us knows enough about how the world works to really be strongly for any particular plan or course of action. We do the least damage when we limit our ambitions to merely warding off the foolish and evil plans of others that we see developing. So, yes, stoking fear of what actually should be feared, what actually needs opposing because it will do harm, whether that be Hitler or plans to “reform” Medicare, is good and necessary. On the other hand, nothing is more injurious than stoking fears of things that should not be feared — the deficit, Global Terror, black and brown people voting — either because they don’t exist or exist but are harmless, just to create a politically exploitable fear effect.

Our side should never stoke the other side’s fears, but should instead always, as much as we can get away with, seek to tamp their unjustified fears down, while stoking our chosen, justified, beneficial, fears. However short-term convenient, because it allowed a certain ju-jitsu effect in meeting the R assault, it was unconscionably and unforgivably stupid to stoke their deficit panic, to agree that the deficit was and is about to murder us all in our beds, that something needs to be done about it. Sure, the fundamental difference between the national budget and the personal and household budgets the average voter is used to handling, that the national budget has to protect demand in the economy, is indeed hard to explain. But the right answer isn’t some clever ju-jitsu that avoids the problem, it’s whatever rational explanation you can get away with, mixed in and fortified by Mediscare. If the electorate were majority saints and geniuses, all you would do is talk Keynes to them. But they’re not, so you bring out the Demon Mediscare to battle the Demon Deficit Scare. You get across what Keynes you can, and hope that the long slow march of civilization will eventually bury austerity in the same tomb as consubstantiation and transubstantiation. But right now we need Mediscare to beat back the barbarians at the gates, and we definitely don’t need to be agreeing that the deficit is indeed much to be feared, just because we want to snow swing voters into imagining that we must be moderate.

104

rootless (@root_e) 11.12.12 at 11:03 pm

If it were just the media reporting that Dems are likely to trade away the safety net, if only under the name of “reforming” it, then I would certainly expect angry denunciations of that idea from the Dem leadership, I would expect statements as categorical that they will not yield an inch on the safety net as what we’ve actually heard from them about not yielding an inch on keeping defense spending 100% intact.

So your complaint is not about what they do, but about how their public marketing is not what you want. But angry denunciations don’t work with this public. It’s not the job of the Administration to meet the marketing expectations of “the left”. Here is an administration that won re-election despite a disastrous misstep, billions of corporate money used against it, and a massive campaign of voter suppression. Maybe, just maybe, they have an idea of how to communicate their message that is not stupid.

105

rootless (@root_e) 11.13.12 at 12:45 am

I understand you’d like Mediscare, but the guy who got elected twice specifically rejects that approach.

The bottom line is that our job is harder than the conservatives’ job. After all, it’s easy to articulate a belligerent foreign policy based solely on unilateral military action, a policy that sounds tough and acts dumb; it’s harder to craft a foreign policy that’s tough and smart. It’s easy to dismantle government safety nets; it’s harder to transform those safety nets so that they work for people and can be paid for. It’s easy to embrace a theological absolutism; it’s harder to find the right balance between the legitimate role of faith in our lives and the demands of our civic religion. But that’s our job. And I firmly believe that whenever we exaggerate or demonize, or oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose. Whenever we dumb down the political debate, we lose. A polarized electorate that is turned off of politics, and easily dismisses both parties because of the nasty, dishonest tone of the debate, works perfectly well for those who seek to chip away at the very idea of government because, in the end, a cynical electorate is a selfish electorate.

http://krebscycle.tumblr.com/post/32914071836/the-obama-method

He may be wrong, but that’s Obama’s approach. You are not going to get yelling from this administration until unless they abandon a tactic that Obama has advocated for a decade and that propelled him to the highest office.

106

Corey Robin 11.13.12 at 2:21 am

It’s unclear how much of the document I posted at #99 can serve as a guide to what Obama might be willing to agree to in the coming weeks. But some of the specifics that he did offer to Boehner last summer are worth noting: $125 billion in Medicaid cuts; $150 billion in higher Medicare premiums, deductibles, and co-pays; cuts in nutrition programs; increase in eligibility age for Medicare; and unspecified “benefit changes” to Social Security. Obama was in a weaker position then than he is now — and none of it came to pass only because the Republicans refused to take that deal — but it might be that he looks for more movement on taxes (not higher rates, but changes in deductions) and reverts to these spending proposals. The record of the negotiations last fall, after the summer deal was brokered, aren’t very promising.

107

Jake 11.13.12 at 3:43 am

So last year Obama was willing to make a deal that included lots of cuts to social programs, it wasn’t accepted, and we now find ourselves in a position where if no agreement is reached in the next several weeks the Bush tax cuts will expire and there will be significant defense spending cuts. Obama got re-elected and the Democrats picked up a bunch of seats in the House and a few seats in the Senate.

This makes Obama a bad negotiator?

108

js. 11.13.12 at 5:06 am

The record of the negotiations last fall, after the summer deal was brokered, aren’t very promising.

Agreed. Which is why the going over the dreaded cliff seems like the least bad of the available options. More Republican intransigence please!

(Also, I can’t seem to figure out why several commentators think that blockheaded Republican nay-saying makes Obama some kind of master negotiator. *That* sounds like 18-dimensional chess or whatever.)

109

Glen Tomkins 11.13.12 at 5:37 am

I think the adminstration has been reasonably clear that it will not tolerate the sequester going into effect for military spending. We simply will not be going over the cliff, however much any of us might think that a 20% haircut would look just fine on the Pentagon. The best we can hope for in our side’s negotiating position, is that we will hold firm for simply repealing the sequester law, and rely on the other side to cave because they don’t want to see 20% “defense” cuts any more than the administration. But most people think the administration will offer them at least a tidbit or two to get them to geek, even if not some horrible Grand Bargain.

110

js. 11.13.12 at 5:57 am

Oops. The first sentence in 108 was supposed to be blockquoted—quoting CR @106.

111

Jake 11.13.12 at 6:38 am

Also, I can’t seem to figure out why several commentators think that blockheaded Republican nay-saying makes Obama some kind of master negotiator.

I don’t know that it makes him automatically a master negotiator, but it has to count for something.

In fact, “I care so much about this issue that I was willing to go against the extreme elements of my base in order to try to make a deal, but the other side was made up of blockheaded nay-sayers who literally wouldn’t accept one rich person paying one dollar more in taxes” sounds like exactly the sort of impression that a politician would like to create among the general public.

Maybe he’s just lucky?

112

rootless (@root_e) 11.13.12 at 1:34 pm

It’s not unusual in business and political negotiations for sides to make offers they know can’t be accepted:
X demands A
Y offers A if it gets B knowing X is allergic to giving B
Y has now demonstrated reasonableness and, especially, if X is representing someone else, weakened X’s position with respect to X’s client (in this case the House GOP, the GOP donor base and the electorate).

This is not rocket science and it happens every day. As with any field, people who don’t know anything about it might think it makes little sense.

113

Consumatopia 11.13.12 at 7:06 pm

What good is “demonstrating reasonableness” in secret negotiations that only get leaked a year later?

Especially if it’s even not clear that Obama would have been able to sell a deal that cuts that much to enough Dem legislators. Boehner had earlier accused Obama of offering things only to rescind those offers soon after. If this is what Obama was offering than maybe that accusation is credible (though, Boehner was likely forced in the same position by Cantor and friends).

Of course, what’s in question here is not Obama’s skill at negotiating or electoral prowess. What’s worrying is the kind of position that Obama apparently felt was acceptable back then. It might indicate that Obama has a preference for a larger deal–bigger tax hikes and spending cuts–and he’s willing to yield ideological ground to get a larger, not necessarily better, deal. (It may also be that he didn’t or doesn’t realize how much suffering would be produced by raising the Medicare retirement age. This is something everyone should be screaming about more.)

Also, @101

“I will also note that the “progressives” seem deeply unwilling to go beyond the 30,000 foot level and look at details of spending. “

I thought those details were yet to be determined. Phase 1 put lower spending caps in place and left it to future Congresses to determine what gets cut. (This is unlike the sequester in which the spending cuts are automatically across the board.) I would appreciate more info on that, if anyone’s got it.

114

LL 11.13.12 at 7:16 pm

Amazing reading this from Portugal.
It is all speculative cargo cult Keynesian economy.
You all don’t have a clue of what will hit you.
Do you think dropping Bush tax cuts fixes anything?
Any of you made any arithmetic operation about your own country spending?

115

Watson Ladd 11.13.12 at 7:56 pm

@ Marc: You have to do that, thanks to the Voting Rights Act in some interpretations.

116

Corey Robin 11.13.12 at 9:41 pm

112: Which is why this was a top-secret document for over a year. It’s a wonder no one’s paying you for these kinds of insights. Or maybe they are?

117

Corey Robin 11.13.12 at 9:42 pm

Oops, I see 113 beat me to it.

118

Peter K. 11.13.12 at 9:45 pm

“Will Obama take us over the fiscal cliff and then keep us there?”

Or rather will Boehner do this? Takes two to tango. Why not just title it “Will Obama sell-out as we’ve been predicting for 4 years?”

It will be interesting to watch what happens and how CrookedTimber/Digby/Firedoglake and the progressive echo chamber react.

119

Dotar Sojat 11.13.12 at 10:36 pm

Cap the mortgage interest decuction at $500,000 of debt and cap the deduction for state and local taxes. Those are benefits to the “rich.”

120

rootless (@root_e) 11.13.12 at 11:44 pm

@113

What good is “demonstrating reasonableness” in secret negotiations that only get leaked a year later?

Because it played out to the public as willing to make deep cuts. And, according to polls, it worked.

Especially if it’s even not clear that Obama would have been able to sell a deal that cuts that much to enough Dem legislators.

Obama would have had to be stupid to expect Boehner to go for this deal. He could have offered ANYTHING and Boehner would have balked – because the price of tax increases on the wealthiest was beyond Boehners ability to accept.

Boehner had earlier accused Obama of offering things only to rescind those offers soon after. If this is what Obama was offering than maybe that accusation is credible (though, Boehner was likely forced in the same position by Cantor and friends).

Here’s a shocking tip, neither party was negotiating in good faith. The objective of the Democrats was to chip away at the “deficit cutting” GOP brand.

Of course, what’s in question here is not Obama’s skill at negotiating or electoral prowess. What’s worrying is the kind of position that Obama apparently felt was acceptable back then.

Worrying to you – but you started with theory that Obama was going to destroy the social safety net and then, by dint of logical tautology, you concluded with the same thing! Astounding

@Professor Robin:

112: Which is why this was a top-secret document for over a year. It’s a wonder no one’s paying you for these kinds of insights. Or maybe they are?

Embarrassing really. Is that the best you can do?

And the guileless swallowing of anything Mr. Inside Official Leak pours is also impressive. No wonder you were longing for a GOP controlled Congress not so long ago.

121

rootless (@root_e) 11.13.12 at 11:48 pm

Or rather will Boehner do this? Takes two to tango. Why not just title it “Will Obama sell-out as we’ve been predicting for 4 years?”

Like religious cultists expecting the apocalypse, progressives don’t seem to mind mere reality invalidating their confident predictions over and over. And many, like Corey Robin, are quick to accuse anyone who points out their abysmal track record of being in the pay of the Illuminati Obama Conspiracy.

122

Consumatopia 11.14.12 at 12:51 am

Because it played out to the public

Assuming these documents aren’t forged, we’re talking about an offer that wasn’t public.

Worrying to you – but you started with theory that Obama was going to destroy the social safety net and then, by dint of logical tautology, you concluded with the same thing!

False, I neither started with that theory nor reached that conclusion. If I thought that Obama was going to “destroy the safety net” then I never would have canvassed for him. You quote my words, but your responses seem to be directed at someone else.

123

Corey Robin 11.14.12 at 1:14 am

#121: Actually, you’re the only one I’ve ever even thought that about. When it comes to defending Obama, no one on the internet has quite your combination of stamina and artlessness. Hence my suspicion that you had to be on the payroll.

124

rootless (@root_e) 11.14.12 at 2:42 am

@CR
I’m actually not so concerned about defending Obama as in trying to figure out how to counter-act the destructive faux-leftism that has displaced any critical thought with goofy chicken-entrail reading, cut-and-paste defeatism, and naive channeling of corporate media. We went though a major financial crisis where the “left” was reduced to puffing Paul Volcker.

But your resort to the common ad-hominem, is still a pathetic moment.

@122 But the material leaked out earlier, hence stories about Obama’s willingness to compromise. The documents from Woodward are about as new and explosive as DDayen’s esoteric readings of Obama’s statements.

BTW: The document specifies such horrible things as boosting low income SS, slashing Ag subsidies and oil and gas research and cutting a lot of tax subsidies.

125

Corey Robin 11.14.12 at 3:18 am

124: “…trying to figure out how…” In that case, here are two tips. First, use fewer adjectives in characterizing your opponents and their positions (the old show, don’t tell thing). Second, characterize those positions correctly; missteps like 48 and 120 undermine you and your efforts.

126

Consumatopia 11.14.12 at 3:55 am

It strikes me as a bad idea to make a bad faith offer on the assumption that bits of it will leak and make you look better. In particular, it probably won’t make you look better if members of your own side lash out at your proposal when you’ll probably need their votes to pass the thing.

I think Obama is smarter than that. He took advantage of plenty of public opportunities to express his willingness to compromise and reform entitlements. But when he was making proposals in summer of 2011, he was sincerely looking for a Grand Bargain that could get through Congress. Fortunately, no such bargain existed.

127

rootless (@root_e) 11.14.12 at 11:42 am

he was sincerely looking for a Grand Bargain that could get through Congress.
—-

because he sincerely believed Boehner’s GOP caucus was willing to raise taxes on the rich in their sincere desire to reduce the deficit?
Really?

128

rootless (@root_e) 11.14.12 at 12:41 pm

Second, characterize those positions correctly; missteps like 48 and 120 undermine you and your efforts.

Thanks for the advice on how to argue. I will ask my employer at Obot HQ if I can take it into consideration.

129

Consumatopia 11.14.12 at 1:59 pm

The text of that deal doesn’t make clear how taxes on the rich would be affected. All of the Bush tax cuts would be kept. In addition, we would repeal the AMT, and not only lower but reduce the number of income tax rates. With those restrictions in place, it’s unlikely that the middle class would have emerged unscathed from whatever “base broadening” Congress later enacted.

Obama wouldn’t have to think this deal had a greater than 50% chance of getting GOP votes–just greater than 0%. And that couldn’t have been ruled out at the time–it would have been a really great deal for the GOP. Obama would have had at least as much trouble scrounging up votes on his side as Boehner would have on his. (And rightfully so–raising the Medicare eligibility age so that we can cut agriculture subsidies is a bad deal.)

It certainly makes more sense than making a bad faith offer in secret to improve your public appearance in the hopes that you’d catch more support for being willing to make the offer than flak for that offer being unsupportable on your own side. You’re really attached to this theory, aren’t you?

Also, seeing you of all people criticize anyone for ad hominem is rich indeed.

130

Josh G. 11.14.12 at 2:13 pm

Is there any reason to think the Woodward document actually reflects the position of the Obama administration as a whole? It is clearly a draft (with placeholders used for various figures throughout), and could easily have been created by one or more administration individuals as a proposal to the President, not as a final offer. For all we know, Obama could have asked more than one person to each create their own proposal so he could choose between them (didn’t he buy into the whole Lincoln “cabinet of rivals” stuff?) Alternatively, it could have been a last-ditch contingency plan if all other methods to increase the debt ceiling failed – it would be a crappy deal, but quite possibly better than a U.S. default on the debt.

131

William Timberman 11.14.12 at 2:30 pm

We made a deal. No, we’re going to tell you what it is just now. You don’t need to know. Here’s a sandwich and a bottle of water, now shut up go find a seat in the back of one of those trucks over there. We’ll tell you what you need to know when you get where you’re going.

Yes, we mean you, rootless.

132

Consumatopia 11.14.12 at 3:40 pm

Josh G.@130, those possibilities make sense to me.

However, there are a lot of sources that claimed Obama had offered a raise in the Medicare eligibility age as part of a deal. In addition, it seems to be something other Democrats are okay with–Rep. Van Hollen said he would consider it a couple of days ago. A lot of constituencies would be happy with it (e.g. current retirees, insurance companies). It has a superficial plausibility to it–people are living longer, right? That it would be highly regressive (not everyone lives longer) and concentrate a great deal of fiscal pain on a vulnerable slice of the population is getting a disturbingly small amount of attention, especially now in the afterglow of electoral victory.

133

Peter K. 11.14.12 at 4:57 pm

” Hence my suspicion that you had to be on the payroll.”

I would be very surprised if rootless is on the payroll. He’s just very frustrated and I share his frustration. rootless and those who disagree with him have a longstanding argument. I find it interesting that the Obama critics go back to Clinton and the “New Democrats” for their evidence, even though Obama ran against the Clintons in the primary. This debate can be judged on the specifics and the object facts, not on speculation on what Obama might or might not do. The main themes seem to be that anti-anti-Obama recognize the obstacles Obama faces while the anti-Obama’s see these as excuses and know that Obama is at heart a neo-liberal-New-Democrat spawn of satan-what-have-you.

Anyhoo, John Quiggen should check out The Walking Dead on AMC which has a samurai-sword wielding black woman who kills zombies. Good stuff!

134

Donald Johnson 11.14.12 at 8:39 pm

Here, btw, is Dean Baker pointing to evidence that the long term fiscal problem has been greatly exaggerated–

link

135

rootless (@root_e) 11.15.12 at 12:43 am

We made a deal.

But they didn’t make a deal. They made an offer. So check those chicken entrails again.

136

rootless (@root_e) 11.15.12 at 12:45 am

However, there are a lot of sources that claimed Obama had offered a raise in the Medicare eligibility age as part of a deal.

As I pointed out before, in order to believe that such an offer (if it was made) was substantive you would have to believe that the GOP would have accepted major tax hikes on the wealthy and corporations – or that Obama believed they would. Do you hold either belief?

137

rootless (@root_e) 11.15.12 at 12:47 am

Also, seeing you of all people criticize anyone for ad hominem is rich indeed.

If you can point to an example of me using ad hominem arguments, please do so. Remember, “your argument is naive and stupid” is not ad-hominem. However, ” your argument can be discarded because you are paid by the Obama administration to make it” is. Thanks for your assistance on this matter.

138

rootless (@root_e) 11.15.12 at 12:51 am

@129 ” All of the Bush tax cuts would be kept.”

Where do you see that?

139

Consumatopia 11.15.12 at 2:30 am

As I pointed out before, in order to believe that such an offer (if it was made) was substantive you would have to believe that the GOP would have accepted major tax hikes on the wealthy and corporations – or that Obama believed they would.

As I pointed out (and you would have noticed if you had actually read my posts, but you don’t), all you have to believe is that Obama believed they might have, that the chance of this occurring is greater than 0%. This makes more sense than doing your secret bargaining in bad faith–remember, there was a debt ceiling crisis, so if Obama was 100% certain that no larger deal could be made, why waste valuable time in secret talks over it?

I should note that I’m the one taking Obama at his word here–that he was sincerely looking for a grand bargain.

If you can point to an example of me using ad hominem arguments, please do so.

Your dismissal of people’s arguments by their past “track records” at 32, 40, 45, 64 is ad hominem. (It’s a rather ironic dismissal for you to take given your own track record of factual omission and logical error above, but that’s besides the point). At 73 you cite an FDR quote with the implication that we can’t disagree with FDR. (Nuts to that, by the way–here’s hoping that Obama won’t follow FDR’s mistake of trying to reduce the debt too soon and producing a double-dip.) At 120 you dismissed my argument because, you claim, I “started with theory that Obama was going to destroy the social safety net”, though of course that’s absurd and had absolutely nothing to do with anything I wrote.

However, ” your argument can be discarded because you are paid by the Obama administration to make it” is.

Who said “your argument can be discarded”?

”Where do you see that?”

It would have cut individual and corporate tax rates even further–how are you supposed to cut rates without keeping the rate cuts we already made?

I think that covers everything.

140

rootless (@root_e) 11.15.12 at 12:35 pm

Your dismissal of people’s arguments by their past “track records” at 32, 40, 45, 64 is ad hominem. (

No. Look up the definition.

“Who said “your argument can be discarded”? “

Ha ha. What is it with the bad faith parsing?

“It would have cut individual and corporate tax rates even further–how are you supposed to cut rates without keeping the rate cuts we already made?”

You did not read the Woodward document. You just assumed it supported your forebodings. Circular reasoning is dull.

141

rootless (@root_e) 11.15.12 at 12:36 pm

“I should note that I’m the one taking Obama at his word here–that he was sincerely looking for a grand bargain. “

Bully for you.

142

rootless (@root_e) 11.15.12 at 1:09 pm

To summarize the argument: Obama said he wanted a grand bargain, the GOP wants the grand bargain to eviscerate the social safety net without changing a tax system that generates wealth inequality, since we believe the GOP to be strong and principled and the Democrats to be weak and unprincipled – WEEEP WEEP.

Same fucking litany over and over again. The HandWringing Party at work.

143

Guido Nius 11.15.12 at 1:28 pm

In the end I guess the outcome will be one supported by a majority of elected officials, in keeping with the procedures in place. Whether that’s going to be a good or a bad outcome will be a matter of (probably endless) historical debate. Given the blue ideas are generally better than the red ideas, the fact that Obama has won the presidency is a good thing.

144

Consumatopia 11.15.12 at 1:29 pm

“No. Look up the definition.”

Yes. Look up the definition. You did not point out a logical error in the argument, you just attacked the person making it.

And that was only one of the examples I listed (and I got sick of re-reading your nonsense halfway down).

“What is it with the bad faith parsing?”

That wasn’t parsing, it was quoting. I quoted one of many instances on this thread in which you attributed words to people they didn’t say. Who said your argument can be discarded? You repeatedly called people, including me, (not just their argument, but the people making them) stupid or naive, and discarded their argument, including mine, for that reason. Ad hominem describes most of your writing in this thread.

“You did not read the Woodward document.”

No, you didn’t. Go the the “Expedited Process for Consideration of Further Deficit Reduction”, Section 2, first and third bullet point.

You were too damn busy singing the praises of lower discretionary spending caps and Medicare cuts up above to bother reading it.

rootless (root_e), your credibility is zero. Don’t ask me to look things up for you again. The definitions of words, the text of leaked documents, even your own words up above–you’ve baldly lied about all of these. I’m getting pretty sick of going on your wild goose chases.

145

Consumatopia 11.15.12 at 1:43 pm

To summarize the argument: Obama said he wanted a grand bargain, the GOP wants the grand bargain to eviscerate the social safety net without changing a tax system that generates wealth inequality, since we believe the GOP to be strong and principled and the Democrats to be weak and unprincipled – WEEEP WEEP.

Whoa, whoa, stop right there. When did I say anything resembling that last part?

Obama said he wanted the debt ceiling resolved by a grand bargain (rather than the smaller deal we ended up with). It would have played into his campaign very well–he would be the president who brought Washington together to solve the debt problem. For precisely this reason, the GOP did not want a grand bargain–they didn’t want to give the president a “win”. Therefore, if a Democrat wants any hope of the GOP giving him a grand bargain, he has to concede even more than he would concede to get a smaller deal.

Fortunately for us all, (even Obama now that he’s won anyway) the GOP wasn’t interested in that kind of trade off.

146

Consumatopia 11.15.12 at 2:27 pm

Another point, btw, from way up above.

Second, Don Berwick’s departure statement from Medicare included the claim that 1/3 of Medicare spending is wasted or stolen. When Obama speaks of possible medicare cuts he always insists on cuts to providers not in benefits

No, when Obama speaks of his past Medicare cuts (e.g. the ACA) that is how he speaks of them. He has not promised that this is how future Medicare cuts will go.

Indeed, that wouldn’t really make sense–it’s doubtful that we can cut provider payments much more without providers leaving the system (hence the recurring “doc fixes”) and the Republicans are already waging jihad over the IPAB “death panels” so building something more substantive in that direction is unlikely.

Given that, future Medicare cuts are will be in reduced eligibility or benefits, higher premiums, or (unlikely) some kind of vouchers or “premium support”.

147

Peter K. 11.15.12 at 3:26 pm

#145

are links allowed? About yesterday’s press conferernce:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/johncassidy/2012/11/obama-tax-hikes-and-fiscal-cliff.html
——————————–
“But has Obama given the Republicans sufficient reason to believe he won’t eventually roll over?

At least to me, that’s not yet clear. During his press conference, a reporter asked the President, “(W)hy should the American people and the Republicans believe that you won’t cave again this time?” This was Obama’s reply:

“Well, two years ago the economy was in a different situation. We were still very much in the early parts of recovering from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And ultimately, we came together, not only to extend the Bush tax cuts, but also a wide range of policies that were going to be good for the economy at the point—unemployment-insurance extensions, payroll-tax extension—all of which made a difference, and is a part of the reason why what we’ve seen now is thirty-two consecutive months of job growth, and over five and a half million jobs created, and the unemployment rate coming down. But what I said at the time is what I meant, which is this was a one-time proposition. And you know, what I have told leaders privately as well as publicly is that we cannot afford to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.”

But somehow God is beaming the secret info that Obama is sellout into your brain, right?

148

rootless (@root_e) 11.15.12 at 3:36 pm

No, when Obama speaks of his past Medicare cuts (e.g. the ACA) that is how he speaks of them. He has not promised that this is how future Medicare cuts will go.

You could look it up instead of assuming your conclusion.

WASHINGTON — The official in charge of Medicare and Medicaid for the last 17 months says that 20 percent to 30 percent of health spending is “waste” that yields no benefit to patients, and that some of the needless spending is a result of onerous, archaic regulations enforced by his agency.

Date December 2011.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/04/health/policy/parting-shot-at-waste-by-key-obama-health-official.html

So basically, you are speaking about something that you know nothing about and relying on your assumptions about the Obama Administration’s secret plans to defund Medicare to carry you through in the absence of even a single google search.

No, you didn’t. Go the the “Expedited Process for Consideration of Further Deficit Reduction”, Section 2, first and third bullet point.

Sorry, but the key is the bullet point above that with the “make permanent 10%, … ” rates which has a glaring omission of the top rate. The points you mention are nothing to do with tax rates – so your claim ” All of the Bush tax cuts would be kept. ” is false.
Apologies will be graciously accepted or at least accepted with surprise.

149

Consumatopia 11.15.12 at 3:44 pm

@Peter K, 147, since you’re making that post in response to one of my posts, could you please explain the relevance of that quote to anything I wrote?

As to the thread more broadly, compare what you’ve quoted to the original question–”Would Obama take us over the fiscal cliff and keep us there?” If Obama is absolutely determined not to cave, no matter what, than the answer is obviously “yes”. You can argue that’s the right answer (as Krugman does) but as it is you’re just not paying attention to what other people in the thread are saying. You’ve jammed everyone into an “anti-Obama” and “anti-anti-Obama” dichotomy whether it fits or not.

150

bob mcmanus 11.15.12 at 3:55 pm

149:You can argue that’s the right answer (as Krugman does)

That’s a little ambiguous. There is the question as to whether Obama should take us over the fiscal cliff (if he doesn’t get Republican capitulation), and then there is the question as to whether he will.

Now Krugman, I think, believes Republicans will cave in a short period of time, before real damage is done. Krugman should be asked if Obama obstinacy is wise in case of full intransigence and obstruction, for say a year. That would crashing into the debt limit.

I think Obama will cave on top rates, but will get something Obama supporters can defend. I won’t like it.

My preference, as always, is contradictions heightened to the moon.

151

rootless (@root_e) 11.15.12 at 4:02 pm

Whoa, whoa, stop right there. When did I say anything resembling that last part?

Because you assume any grand bargain must be on GOP terms. Obama is trying to sell public and influential media on the proposition that one can cut the deficit and reform the social safety net by cutting tax expenditures for corporations and the wealthy and fixing waste in the programs. That’s the argument he has made consistently and in many forms for years. The “progressives” and Republicans insist that a grand bargain must cut social benefits and that subsidies of then wealthy cannot actually be cut. That is, they insist that Obama is either duplicitous or too weak to push his own program.

So we have this bizarre situation where the “progressives” line up with the GOP to defend vast payments to Humana and medicaid mills. It’s weird, but it’s consistent with the other reactionary elements of the “progressive” critique.

152

Consumatopia 11.15.12 at 4:14 pm

@rootless,

WASHINGTON — The official in charge of Medicare and Medicaid for the last 17 months says that 20 percent to 30 percent of health spending is “waste” that yields no benefit to patients, and that some of the needless spending is a result of onerous, archaic regulations enforced by his agency.

And, as I said, we already cut provider payments and set up the IPAB to address this stuff. Hopefully they’ll find some savings, but it’s already law, the ACA already claimed the savings (and Republicans demagogued us over it, e.g. “$700 billion in Medicare cuts”) and therefore we can’t count it as savings in further negotiations with Republicans.

Sorry, but the key is the bullet point above that

No, that’s what would happen if the sequester took effect. (Which, remember, you declared that we aren’t allowed to consider @43). It’s fairly similar to what would happen now, except that middle class tax cuts are protected and the cuts to military spending are gone.

Because you assume any grand bargain must be on GOP terms.

If the GOP would have preferred a smaller bargain to a larger one, and they have to agree to a bargain for it to proceed, then, yes, insisting on a grand bargain in 2011 would have to be closer to their terms than ours.

@bob mcmanus, thinking again I’d have to agree with you. To some extent, I even want some kinds of caving–I’d prefer to see some token cuts in deductions combined with token cuts in spending and have the whole mess pushed out another year when the economy is hopefully stronger. And that’s basically because I have the complete opposite preference with respect to contradiction heightening.

153

rootless (@root_e) 11.15.12 at 4:23 pm

And, as I said, we already cut provider payments and set up the IPAB to address this stuff. Hopefully they’ll find some savings, but it’s already law, the ACA already claimed the savings (and Republicans demagogued us over it, e.g. “$700 billion in Medicare cuts”) and therefore we can’t count it as savings in further negotiations with Republicans.
===

As noted: Berwick made this claim at the end of 2011. The $700B in “cuts” were reductions to future increases. Berwick is discussing current expenditures.

There are cuts and then there are CUTS. Neither Obama nor his health care law literally “cut” a dollar from the budget of Medicare, which operates as a government-run health insurance plan for Americans over age 65.

Rather, the health care law instituted a number of changes to reduce the growth of Medicare costs. At the time the law was passed, those reductions amounted to $500 billion over the next 10 years. Time’s passage has only boosted that number.

154

Consumatopia 11.15.12 at 4:43 pm

As noted (and even quoted by you!): Whatever reductions there are to current expenditures, future increases or anything else due to the IPAB and other cost cutting measures in the PPACA (and I nowhere objected to those reductions), they’re already part of law, they’re no good to us in further negotiations.

Oh, and now you’ve adopted the Romney/Ryan game of distinguishing between “cuts” and “reductions to future increases”, ignoring population growth and medical inflation.

Hey, I’m sorry. Reading through your nonsense is excruciating, non-productive work. I point out your errors, you ignore that and make more errors in response. I’m not doing this anymore until the anti-Obama conspiracy/cult is ready to put me on their payroll.

So I guess that means you win!

155

chrismealy 11.15.12 at 5:33 pm

rootless, I basically agree with you here, but you’re running pretty hot.

156

Corey Robin 11.15.12 at 6:46 pm

And judging by the drop-off in other voices — Consumatopia’s statement at 154 only puts into words what other people have obviously already concluded in practice — it seems as if the rest of our discussants are running pretty cold. Why don’t the people who have been dominating the last 50 comments or so back off and allow other folks to enter into and steer the conversation.

157

rootless (@root_e) 11.15.12 at 7:51 pm

As noted (and even quoted by you!): Whatever reductions there are to current expenditures, future increases or anything else due to the IPAB and other cost cutting measures in the PPACA (and I nowhere objected to those reductions), they’re already part of law, they’re no good to us in further negotiations.

Berwick states at the end of 2011 that current expenses at 20/30 too much due to waste and stupid regulations. This has nothing to do with ACA projected savings of growth in future costs – much of which comes from slashing medicare advantage. Obama keeps stating that Medicare costs can be limited without reducing benefits. His Medicare director explains some of what he sees as potential savings. But you insist that he cannot be arguing that, instead he must be agreeing to cuts in Medicare benefits. This seems to be purely based on your assumption that the Admin wants to cut Medicare benefits in a grand bargain – which is your conclusion as well. You say they cannot be arguing for such savings in negotiations, but that is exactly what they are arguing.

Oh, and now you’ve adopted the Romney/Ryan game of distinguishing between “cuts” and “reductions to future increases”, ignoring population growth and medical inflation.

That is where the $700B in “cuts” comes from – from reductions in future costs.

158

rootless (@root_e) 11.16.12 at 3:54 am

“Hey, I’m sorry. Reading through your nonsense is excruciating, non-productive work.”

Reading your insults in defense of your “argument” is annoying. Again, I advise you to look up what ad-hominem means.

159

Consumatopia 11.16.12 at 9:01 am

IPAB proposals which would address the kind of waste Berwick was talking about in 2011 would not take effect until 2015.

Obama keeps stating that Medicare costs can be limited without reducing benefits.

Whoa. You’re claiming that Obama has ruled out benefit cuts in future legislation? Despite the document above? Despite widespread reporting that he offered benefit cuts? That’s…wow. I’m a bit ashamed of myself for wasting time with you. Sorry, everyone.

160

Consumatopia 11.16.12 at 2:13 pm

Also, this just occurred to me, but if you have high expectations for eliminating Medicare fraud, that’s a very good reason to avoid grand bargains–the CBO absolutely does not share your expectations, which is why they didn’t give the IPAB very much savings. A better strategy would be to continually kick the can down the road with smaller bargains, wait for the IPAB (or pass other legislation, good luck getting even more “death panels” through the House) to outperform CBO expectations and claim the savings then.

161

Corey Robin 11.16.12 at 4:38 pm

Rootless: You’ve made 45 comments on this thread alone. I asked above, politely, and without naming names, for people to back off and allow others to speak. You ignored my request. I won’t ask politely again.

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