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Hullabaloo


Saturday, July 31, 2010

 
Finally, nirvana

by digby

David Broder is positively giddy at the prospect of Obama finally working in a bipartisan fashion after the fall election and he thinks Obama is too. Sure, he won't be able to solve most of the pressing problems confronting the country but the biggest problem -- Democratic partisanship --- will be taken care of, so that's something to look forward to.

Here's an example of how great it's going to be:
As the problem of long-term joblessness has drawn increasing White House attention, thoughts have turned again to the need for large-scale investment in all kinds of infrastructure projects, electronic as well as physical. Obama has set staffers to searching for innovative ways to finance such projects, with some form of public-private partnership, and has asked them to invite Republicans to come forward with ideas that could significantly reduce the ranks of seemingly permanent unemployed construction workers.


What a great idea. I have no doubt that the Republicans are going to step up with all kinds of great ideas for this. I know, how about some tax cuts for rich people?

But this is especially hopeful:

It is more difficult to imagine how Obama will enlist Republican help on some of his other priorities. Many in the White House are doubtful that when the bipartisan commission on debt and deficits reports in December, enough Republicans among the panel's 18 members will sign on to provide the 14 votes required for a consensus. But at minimum, its majority report is expected to point to a plausible formula for budgetary discipline and, with pressure from the president, force congressional Republicans to come up with their own plan -- not just say no.


On the NN panel on the deficit in which I participated, the consensus was that this was exactly how it was likely to go down. The commission will agree on certain "principles" and disagree on others and will be unable to form a consensus But the principles on which both the Democrats and Republicans will agree have to do with benefit cuts. Those on which they will disagree are tax hikes for the wealthy. This will form the basis for the debate going forward --- benefit cuts will be said to have already achieved bipartisan agreement.

Nobody expects the catfood commission to actually pass although a turnover in both Houses in November could shake that assumption. What's expected is that they will set new parameters for the debate perfectly situated for Broder's bipartisan utopia. And the expectation is that the deficit hysteria may propel the president to declare this "consensus" a Grand Bargain achievement.

These are very weird times. Anything could happen. And nothing in the world would make Broder and the villagers happier than to see Social Security "saved" by weakening it. They've told us incessantly that (unwealthy) Americans are going to have to sacrifice and they meant it. If the Democrats manage to fulfill this Village dream they can count on really good press coverage and lots of back patting at social events for at least a week so it's totally worth it.

Update: It's actually worse than I thought:
I don't want to overreact. I'd hate to prematurely diss President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which held its fourth public meeting Wednesday. But the commission's Democratic co-chair, Erskine Bowles, may have already blown it.

In little-noticed remarks a few weeks ago, Bowles suggested that the long-term goal the commission should adopt for federal spending should be 21 percent of gross domestic product. This sounds like a bookkeeping matter. But Bowles' goal would end progressive ambition, ratify America's declining competitiveness and bury the American dream.

Why? For starters, federal spending under Ronald Reagan averaged 22 percent of GDP. Under Bowles's view, therefore, the outer limits of the Democratic Party's 21st-century aspirations would be to run government at a size smaller than did a 20th-century conservative icon.

That's the Democratic position, he's talking about.
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