Look For The Applause Sign
Sam Stein tweeted this:
In the budget debate, one Dem source predicts, will come down to how much $ Boehner gets for the removal of any given rider (prediction: $1b)
Saturday, March 05, 2011
The Sound Of No Hands Clapping
I'm seeing a lot of chatter recently about how we all need to chill out because there's no way that the draconian budget cuts, defunding of Planned Parenthood or cutting of Social Security is going to happen because all the Republicans really want to do is to slash the budget by a hundred million. And since the administration has already anted up half of that they'll end up compromising somewhere in between 50 and 100. And then, presumably, Barack Obama will be again hailed as a hero for avoiding a government shutdown and we'll all be required to clap harder and revere his masterful negotiating skills.
But that's ridiculous. First, considering the Democrats' recent record of crack negotiating of there's no guarantee that some of the culture war issues or social security cuts won't be in a final deal. But even if they aren't, what this adds up to is that last December, with a Democratic House and Senate our president agreed to extend massive tax cuts for the richest Americans and then in March, with only a Democratic Senate he agreed to massive spending cuts. I'm not really sure why I should applaud such a thing, particularly in light of the fact that every economist I respect says that this is the opposite of what any pragmatic technocratic, common sense leader would do in our current economic situation, much less a transformational progressive Democrat. I'm sorry, no clapping from me. The idea that we are supposed to accept the nonsensical idea that massive tax cuts for the rich combined with massive spending cuts to essential programs for ordinary Americans is a "victory" under those circumstances just doesn't make sense.
I understand the politics, but it's simply not correct to say that the only possible way to govern is to slash spending, cut taxes and gush a lot of happy talk about "investments" and "winning the future" while hoping against hope that the economy improves enough (and the opposition is lame enough) to get reelected. Not when you have the presidency, the US Senate and a fractious, divided, opposition that should be easily leveraged against itself.
It's always possible that the Republicans will fold without any more cuts. But they are delirious kamikazees at this point --- they've gotten everything they wanted so far and figure they might as well go the distance. But I would still put my money on a deal that spares the worst culture war stuff in exchange for some truly horrifying cuts. Sticking it to the poor is one thing the mainstream and the Tea Party can certainly agree on.
Last December, the Democrats gave us DADT repeal in exchange for the Bush tax cut and now they're angling to give us Planned Parenthood in exchange for massive, immediate cuts in discretionary spending. At some point you have to wonder if everyone isn't getting exactly what they want out of this deal --- except, of course, those who are already clinging to the lowest rungs of society and working people.
Update: Sorry, I'm blogging on the run (on my phone!) and I think I was't clear. I am not in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood or the EPA. I would expect any Democratic president and Senate to hold fast on those things. But allowing them to be held hostage for huge spending cuts in the middle of an epic recession isn't a win. My suspicions stem from the fact that I'm not at all sure that our entire governing class of both parties doesn't believe it is.
And I resent being bullied into being happy about this. It isn't a "compromise, it's a capitulation. Democrats aren't supposed to be the party of tax cuts for the rich and spending cuts for the poor and middle class, certainly not when there is almost 9% official unepmpolyment. I honestly don't think there's any reason we had to come to this --- the Republicans don't have a God-given right to set the agenda.