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Hullabaloo


Monday, December 31, 2012

 
Waiting on Boehner

by David Atkins

With a small-bore deal from the Senate on the table, all eyes are on John Boehner as to whether he will bring it to the floor. Whether or not it's actually a good deal for Republicans, it's almost certain that the same House Republicans who rejected Boehner's extremist Plan B as somehow too liberal won't see a deal that extends unemployment benefits while raising taxes over $450,000 as anything more than Communism.

One of two things happens now: either Boehner refuses to bring the Senate deal to a vote in the House, thereby potentially maintaining his Speakership, or he brings it to a vote and hopes that enough Republicans join Democrats to pass it. It's possible that Republicans will be OK with voting on this deal tomorrow after we go over the cliff so that they can call their vote a tax cut rather than a tax increase. Either way, though, it's not likely to pass with a majority of Republican votes.

In the meantime, all the ballyhooed talk of the markets tanking if no deal is reached on the cliff seems to be overwrought: the Dow finished up 166 points today.

I'm still of the opinion that going over the cliff is better than the Senate's deal. When taxes go up on all Americans, it's important that the President and every Democratic politician make it clear that Republicans are to blame for it for insisting on keeping tax breaks on every dollar above $250,000. Let the newspapers write about it every single day until November 2014 if necessary. As much as it's important that tax rates not go up on the middle class, it's also probably not the end of the world for that to happen (it would reduce the deficit, after all, like conservatives supposedly want.)

If this deal does go through, it's probably something that progressives can live with, but everything will depend on what happens when Republicans inevitably take the debt ceiling hostage. The President has declared that he won't allow the debt ceiling to be taken hostage, but there already appears to be some retreat from that position, while the only ways to avoid that scenario would be to mint a trillion-dollar coin or invoke the 14th Amendment. While I would personally like to see the 14th Amendment used I don't expect the President to do either one, which makes his pronouncements about not negotiating over the cliff pointless. He'll be forced to.

In the end, what happened is that Republicans took last year's debt ceiling hostage, forcing a pointless game of brinksmanship now in which they have taken stupid spending cuts and middle-class tax cuts hostage. Even though Democrats hold the stronger negotiating position, it seems Republicans are going to force Democrats to a draw at best now, in the hopes of taking the same debt ceiling hostage again this year in order to get what they really want.

This is never going to stop because there is no downside for Republican hostage taking. The only way it will ever stop is when Democrats finally just shoot the hostage and destroy the Republicans over the outcome.

In the meantime pseudo-centrists like Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz will continue to blame both sides. But it's best to mock them and mobilize against them to show where the people really stand.



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