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Hullabaloo


Saturday, August 03, 2013

 
We won. They're losing. It's important to remember that.

by David Atkins

As Washington prepares to self-immolate over yet another budget showdown, it's worth remembering the context that brought us here. Republicans, with a perplexing assist from the President himself, forced us into an appalling fixation on austerity and a backlash against Obamacare. That might have been understandable in the wake of the 2010 elections which swept Republicans into office.

But 2013 is not 2011. Democrats won an election defending Obamacare and the idea that government has a postiive role to play in helping boost the private sector out of a recession. Moreover, demographic trends are hurting the Republican Party--trends that will only increase in harm as the GOP clings to its message of austerity for the poor and middle classes.

Greg Sargent explains what that means for the upcoming budget battle:

It isn’t 2011 anymore, but we’re facing another series of crises that are quite similar. Dems have a chance to do far better this time. Today’s jobs numbers only underscore the urgency of not capitulating to any more austerity demands, and make it all the more crucial that Dems push hard back to swing us back in the other direction.

On the debt ceiling, this means no negotiating, no matter what. The GOP demand for more spending cuts in exchange for a debt limit hike is a nonstarter — period. The defund-Obamacare campaign should be treated as the buffoonish con game that it is. When it comes to funding the government, the picture gets more complicated. Probably the best we can hope for, given current GOP dysfunction, is a short term funding of the government at current levels. But the long term is what matters. Dems must continue pushing hard to split off Republican Senators who seem inclined to try to compromise with Dems, and they must make sure that the demand for more stimulus spending — on infrastructure, for example — is part of those conversations, as unlikely as it seems that it will bear fruit. Dems must continue pushing for a long term replacement to the sequester that increases spending levels, replaces cuts partly with new revenues, and prioritizes job-creation and economic growth. This may seem futile but Dems should continue articulating these priorities as forcefully as they can while refusing to get drawn back into the austerity frame that has held sway for so long.
Greg is right, of course. And it seems that most Congressional Democrats were either on board with this notion from the beginning, or have gradually come round to seeing that austerity in a recession is a fool's errand, that the GOP is implacable, and that there's no advantage in playing Republican-lite.

The only question is, will the President finally see that as well and stand firm against more cuts?

With Republicans in control of the House and most state legislatures, and poised to possibly gain control of the Senate in 2014, it's easy to forget that they're still a Party drowning in civil war, lack of message, and demographic doom. They're drowning, and if they refuse to take a moderate life boat, the best option is throw them an anvil.


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