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Monday, July 25, 2011

There will come a point
by David Atkins ("thereisnospoon")

Earlier today I listed a number of theories to explain President Obama's behavior during the default crisis. Doing the bidding of wealthy contributors is plausible, but then why insist on raising their taxes? Making a robotic technocratic choice for budget restraint has merit as a theory, but then why not just let the Bush tax cuts expire, and why go for Social Security, which is irrelevant? Perhaps the most likely rationale is purely political: the President is going after independent voters in advance of 2012, and making choices based on the belief that these independent voters want to cut government spending.

But then, once again, why Social Security? And why insist on cutting so much from discretionary spending? Your average independent voter has no idea what the difference between one and two trillion dollars is when it comes to spending outlays. The numbers are too big to comprehend for most people. Why not lay down a marker at, say, $500 billion in spending, with no cuts to Medicare or Social Security, and then "give in" to allow for $1 trillion in cuts? That would prove his "spending cut" bona fides to independent voters just as effectively as his current approach, while giving Republicans the "win" they so desperately crave.

None of it makes much sense. The truth may be a combination of the three theories, but even then it doesn't hang together. Unless you believe the final piece of the puzzle is that the White House actively wants progressives to howl with rage. I'll let brooklynbadboy take it from here:

The President made it very clear he wants cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Yes, the very Social Security that has nothing to do with the deficit. You don't have to rely on "rumors" also known as "reporting." He's said it himself....

The president is seeking less revenue than the tax increases advocated by Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Mark Warner(D-VA), and Dick Durbin(D-IL). That's an extremely conservative bunch, excepting Durbin, and Obama's proposal was to the right of that. And don't forget that bit of supply-side "dynamic scoring" stuff (emphasis mine) that is straight out of the GOP playbook. Again, don't take it from me. Don't take it from the "anti-Obama media rumor mill." Don't take it from foaming at the mouth, overreacting, racist, bigoted, irrational, pony and rainbow loving liberal bloggers. That's from the President himself.

How did the president expect Democrats to react to his proposal?
brooklynbadboy then quotes the duly elected Democratic President of the United States:

But in the interest of being serious about deficit reduction, I was willing to take a lot of heat from my party — and I spoke to Democratic leaders yesterday, and although they didn’t sign off on a plan, they were willing to engage in serious negotiations, despite a lot of heat from a lot of interest groups around the country, in order to make sure that we actually dealt with this problem.
And then finishes with this:

He expected to take a lot of heat, not loving adoration.

If the presidents gets his big deal, he expects you, the Democrats, to be upset about it. Not cheering it. When and if he strikes a deal to cut Social Security, which has nothing to do with the deficit at all, which he himself says he is willing to do, he doesn't expect you to respond by saying "GO OBAMA! CUT MY SOCIAL SECURITY! HOORAY!" He expects you to be plenty pissed about the Grand Bargain. He expects you to respond with HEAT.

Don't take my word for it. Listen to the man himself. My message is "no need to worry, sir. I'm already there."

This theory, combined with the President's seeking the Independent vote in 2012, is the only one that actually makes sense. He wants the Left to be furious with him, as a proving point for his moderate and centrist chops. He wants the Right furious with him, too, which is why he's holding out for minor revenue increases that don't make that much difference in the long run, and don't do much to address income inequality. The revenue increases are an inflexible part of the negotiation precisely because he knows the Right will go ballistic over them.

The entire intent of the Administration would be, under this theory, to make both sides go ballistic so that the Administration can look like the only adult in the room to independent voters. Cutting Social Security is precisely designed to make the Left visibly cry out in anguish. And they're counting on the idea that the Republican market fundamentalist cult will so terrify the vast majority of Democrats come election season that they'll dutifully pull the lever for the Administration no matter what. They may be right. The President's fundraising total from small donors does seem to reflect a broad range of committed support.

But I wouldn't take that bet. As an activist on the ground, I can see firsthand how dispirited many of our core volunteers are at this stage. How long can the Democratic Party run headlong from its base even as Republicans eagerly rush to embrace theirs, before the liberal base gives up and goes home even if it means Michele Bachmann in the White House? It seems the President and his advisers are willing to test those limits. Time will tell if it blows up in their faces in 2012, or if they are vindicated.

I'm just not sure which result would be the worse for the country.