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Mitch McConnell is trying to play a busted hand

[ 140 ] July 12, 2011 |

For sheer cynicism it’s hard to top McConnell’s latest bright idea, which is essentially to pass legislation that will give the Obama administration the power to raise the debt ceiling, subject to a 2/3rds over-ride by Congress. The practical effect would be to raise the debt ceiling while allowing Republicans to vote “against” doing so with impunity:

Politically, the new debt process is a McConnell classic in that it seeks to shift all of the blame for any debt increase on to the president and Democrats. Republicans would be free to vote in opposition without the consequences of risking default.

Getting to a two-thirds majority in the Senate to override a veto will be immensely difficult for Republicans, who have only 47 votes at this stage. Even in the Republican controlled House it would be a climb, but going into the 2012 elections, the plan offers three opportunities then to put Democrats on the spot.

What this signals is McConnell’s recognition that he’s overplayed his hand, and that if the Socialist Death Panels have to euthanize grandma because her social security check bounced* the GOP is going to get the lion’s share of the blame (where have we seen this movie before?).

I’m hoping Obama calls this bluff.

*Hypothetical scenario

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  • wsn

    If Obama wanted a clean debt ceiling vote, this would be a no-brainer.

    If Obama wants a “Grand Bargain”, this is a very, very bad outcome for him.

    • danbu sama

      Yeah tbh I hope he takes it, let the gopp render itself irrelevant / the debt ceiling a nonissue

  • newsouthzach

    As a matter of policy, though, this is way better than the current system. Forcing POTUS to eat a political shit sandwich one in a while is acceptable; defaulting on the debt is not.

    • Paul Campos

      I think this is a golden opportunity to drive a wedge into the middle of the right wing. You can bet your bottom junk bond that if we get anywhere close to an actual default, the Lords of Capital are going to decide that as much as they hate paying slightly higher taxes, that’s a price they’ll have to pay as insurance against having the whole boat capsized by the lunatic wing of the GOP.

      • But he can’t be too obvious about it, or their shared anti-Obamaism will bring them back together.

        • Furious Jorge

          I go back and forth on Obama’s political skills, but I have to think he’s got the chops to pull that off if he wants to.

  • Nobody could have predicted that the Republicans wanted to let Obama raise the debt ceiling unilaterally in order to keep their hands clean (like they did with the TARP legislation).

    Nobody could have predicted that the “leaks” over the past two weeks were intended to make Obama look like the reasonable one and put the Republicans in an untenable political position, and didn’t actually represent concessions he intended to make.

    Well, maybe a few soulless O-bots who allow their lick-spittle lack of principle in the cause of partisanship blind them to reality and the well being of grandmas across the nation ferchrissakes.

    But other than that, nobody.

    • Psht-crack.

      Miller Time.

      • Paul Campos
        • Nobody could have predicted that the “leaks” over the past two weeks were intended to make Obama look like the reasonable one and put the Republicans in an untenable political position, and didn’t actually represent concessions he intended to make.

          Thanks for playing along. It probably wouldn’t have worked without the shrieking.

          • Paul Campos

            For he is the Kwisatz Haderach!

            • You don’t talk the Chicago Police Union and the Chief into supporting a bill requiring police to videotape murder suspects’ interrogations without some weirding words.

              • Linnaeus

                I could use some of that spice to help me finish my dissertation.

            • Malaclypse

              Maud’Dib got a clean bill of succession out of the Padishah Emperor, without offering any concessions.

              He just used nukes.

    • danbu sama

      Dnftt

    • Good job, Joe. I was with you last week.

      Miller Time indeed! Big win.

    • fizz

      Well you do receive the talking points on a daily basis.

      • “Dumbledore says people find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right.”-hermione

  • Pingback: Reader Feeder Bits for (Tue. 12-Jul-11 1731) | Boulder Dude()

  • shah8

    Miller…beer? That’s pretty nasty.

    Don’t any of you idiots who feel the need to be “smarter” than Obama, or Yglesias, or whoever else isn’t a proper American, don’t any of you guys just get tired of being obsequiously wrong? Maybe admit that Obama, Yglesias, and all the other people, know and care about their jobs, enough to do them reasonably well, and probably better than you can?

    Maybe Joe From Lowell gets a kick out of punching the various insecure people around here, but I kinda get sick–more these days because it’s beginning to be Charlie Brown vs Lucy’s football.

    God, just understand that when Obama’s being all centristy, oh yeah, he’s a centrist, and oh yeah, he does do a bit of bluffing. Maybe take that as a cue to cheer or boo a policy balloon? Make that democracy and open discourse work? Instead of being noisy buffoons that wail on every supposed betrayal? Not just here, DailyKos comments are a horror show these days…

    • I only punch back.

      But I’ve got a lot of “back” to get out of my system.

      BOO HOO FUCKITY HOO, HE’S SUCH A TERRIBLE NEGOTIATOR!!!

      Here’s a hint, chumps: the fact that you can’t count very high doesn’t mean there are eleven dimensions.

      • stilladbag

        says the little man with a complex

        • Ohh, the recess bell is ringing! Better line up so your teacher can bring you inside for story time.

    • wsn

      These sentences …

      Maybe take that as a cue to cheer or boo a policy balloon? Make that democracy and open discourse work?

      are immediately followed by this …

      Instead of being noisy buffoons that wail on every supposed betrayal?

      Also, what are we supposed to do when Obama and Yglesias disagree? As in, e.g., the debt-ceiling vote.

      • Boo the policy.

        You didn’t see Nancy Pelosi cutting herself about Obama being a Republican.

      • Holden Pattern

        I think the designated role of those on the American left who believe in things other than the Democratic Party and whoever is its current leader is to decide whether (a) get in line and salute along with everyone else or (b) act as designated foil, whipping boy, scapegoat, etc. No credit if a Dem wins, but the blame if a Dem loses. No credit for stopping bad policy or getting good policy, but lots of blame for having the childish petulant gall to pipe up if bad policy is floated (and blame if bad policy goes through because they didn’t speak up soon enough).

        Basically, the role of the liberal in American politics is fuck you, that’s what your role is.

        • We’re the liberals, Holden.

          • But, yes: fuck you.

            • Paul Campos

              You’re testing some limits around here.

              • dangermouse

                He’s really not doing anything much different from the same trollshtick he’s been using for some time.

                I mean he’s really not much more subtle than Norman the Whatever; when this many of someone’s posts consist of “fuck you” and/or explaining at length how uninterested he is in anyone else’s opinion it’s p. obvious he’s measuring success by the number of minutes people waste paying attention to him.

                • And by “troll shtick,” you mean “arguing a position based on facts and evidence that has just been proven correct.”

                  Wah wah wah, don’t you hate it when your bashing is proven to be utterly worthless?

        • Haven’t you gotten it through your think skull yet?

          You never believed in Social Security more than Obama did.

          You never believed in Medicare more than Obama did.

          He played you. And you’re going to let him do it again next time, because it’s more important to you to pose as the brave dissident than to understand what’s going on around you.

          • Linnaeus

            I dunno know, joe, when the president puts Social Security and Medicare “on the table”, I think it’s completely justifiable to take that very seriously.

            • when the president puts Social Security and Medicare “on the table”

              Should that ever actually happen, it would make sense to take it seriously.

              Don’t you get it? He never actually put them on the table. He made a great show of “putting them on the table” as a ploy.

              Such a terrible negotiator. Doesn’t he realize that you’re supposed to strike the most extreme position that you can at the outset, and then stomp around and rage and howl like…uh…like the Republicans have been?

              That’s how you win a negotiation. There is no other way, certainly not when the outcome depends on how the process is playing to the audience.

              • Malaclypse

                Doesn’t he realize that you’re supposed to strike the most extreme position that you can at the outset, and then stomp around and rage and howl like…uh…like the Republicans have been?

                Which, to be fair, got them an extension on the tax cuts, which is all they care about.

                • The concessions in that deal and their agreement to let Senate business continue in the lame duck got them the tax cut extension.

                  This time, when they’ve got nothing to offer except “We’ll kick your butt in the press if you don’t,” it didn’t work, because he was able to beat them in the press.

                • Congress should have resolved the tax cut issue before the election. I blame Pelosi/Reid more, I assume that douchebag blue dogs were the stumbling blocks. Obama gets some blame for not twisting arms hard enough to get it done. Of course, we don’t know for sure who was to blame but it’s clear to me that it was a stupid strategy.

                • Congress should have done a lot of things earlier than they did in the last session.

                  I’ve read, though I’m not sure how much I believe it, that Obama wanted to tackle it earlier, but that some Congressional Democrats, prominently Russ Feingold, insisted that they not be saddled with such a vote before the election.

              • Linnaeus

                Don’t you get it? He never actually put them on the table. He made a great show of “putting them on the table” as a ploy.

                Maybe I don’t get it. I know I’m not privy to the ins and outs of budget negotiations, so I have to go on what folks like the president say. When he talks about meaningful changes to programs like SS and Medicare in the context of budget negotiations that are heavily slanted toward spending cuts, my eyebrows get raised a little because I get concerned.

                Concern. That’s it. I’m not assuming any particular outcome, but given the political climate in Washington these days, I don’t feel I can necessarily count out any particular outcome either.

                • so I have to go on what folks like the president say.

                  Really?

                  Is that how you go about analyzing politics?

                  What public figures say? Even when you know they’re trying to out-maneuver each other?

                  Concern. That’s it. I’m not assuming any particular outcome

                  Then you’re miles ahead of most.

                • Until a day or two ago, I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be, either. I figured out the POTUS’s game plan, and how these increasingly-implausible, transparently for-effect leaks played into it, but I couldn’t figure out the end game.

                  Concern? Yep. I had all kinds of concerns.

                  But you know what I never had any concern about? That he was going to actually trade away meaningful cuts to Social Security and Medicare for a debt ceiling increase.

              • Njorl

                A draw on the debt ceiling issue would be a clean bill passing congress with posturing dissent from Republicans. If the McConnell idea goes down, Obama will have essentially achieved that, plus some embarrassment for the Republican leadership. I just don’t believe that is what Obama was going for.

                I can buy that he believed he could achieve the draw as a fall-back position, and therefore could afford to offer “grand deals” which were to his benefit. He may have offered Republicans deals with poison pills to make them look bad, but I don’t think that’s all there was.

                He might also have considered that it is always easier to reverse the cuts to programs than it is to raise taxes. If you want higher taxes on the wealthy and no cuts to programs, the easiest path may well be to trade spending cuts for tax increases, then work on reversing the spending cuts.

                I’m pretty sure everything was indeed “on the table”. In fact, the state of medicare pretty much demands that it take up permanent residence “on the table”. The only question about medicare is whether it gets fixed or destroyed. If Obama can actually get something in exchange for fixing medicare, that would be a coup – though raising the minimum age is not the way to fix it. Stricter, more scientific guidelines on treatment is the way to go.

                • It’s July 2011. This process began in April.

                  Do you think that Barack Obama ever believed, at any point in this process, two years after his presidency began, that Republicans would ever agree to any deal that included meaningful tax increases? In exchange for anything?

                  You would have to believe that he considered it possible that they would, in order to conclude that he was trying to work towards a deal.

                • Njorl

                  Yes, Joe, I do. Since Boehner thought the Republicans might go for it, I think it is quite possible that Obama thought they might go for it too.

                  It turns out that Boehner was wrong.

                • Since Boehner thought the Republicans might go for (a trillion dollar tax hike)…

                  Huh?

                • Njorl

                  Boehner liked the ideas Obama was discussing – the $4 trillion dollar deal with tax increases all set up as loophole closures. Boehner couldn’t sell it to the rest of his party.

          • Holden Pattern

            Let’s assume you’re right. I think you’re wrong, but let’s assume you’re right.

            That’s definitely what someone like me wants — lifelong Democratic voter and donor, believer in the promise of America for all its people — I want to be FUCKING PLAYED by the doublespeak of a President I voted for and advocated for, who leads a party I’ve given a lot of money to. I want that President to FUCKING TEASE people who believe in those things. That’s what I want.

            And then, you know what tops it off, to have people like jfl tell me that my problem is that (a) I’m a chump and (b) I don’t BELIEVE enough in the things that I believe in (when in fact, what I don’t believe in is Obama, who has expressly reneged on campaign promises on which I based my vote for him), and gloat that the super sekrit hidden strategy worked, because people who BELIEVE in the things that jfl says Obama is dangling as bait were STUPID enough to react to the dangling.

            What kind of asshole does any of those things, either the dangling or the gloating?

            So, y’know, I believe jfl when he says that “fuck you” is my role. Because he and all of the other Dem partisans have been saying that for a while, even while they demand my vote and my money as their right.

            • Sorry, Holden, yours isn’t the vote that decides elections.

              Please do vote for Obama next year, though, in honor of comprehensive health care reform.

              J

              • Holden Pattern

                You know jfl, you and your kind have done more to turn me off of the Dems than any lunatic on the right could possibly do.

                Of all of the possible responses you could have given, this is the one you chose — you chose “double fuck you”.

                • Holden Pattern

                  Well, damn. Saw the J at the start and assumed it was jfl. Point stands, but I will wait until jfl actually says it to apply it to him.

                • You know jfl, you and your kind have done more to turn me off of the Dems than any lunatic on the right could possibly do.

                  That is fucking pathetic.

                  What in the name of God’s green earth is your little hard on about some person on an comment thread supposed to do with how you vote?

                  What the fuck do you think politics is about? Your widdle feewings?

                  WTF? That’s how you’re going to approach politics.

                  This isn’t about you, and it isn’t about me.

                  I can’t believe you just said that. Selfish, shallow, self-absorbed bastard.

                • Which promises did he break? –Besides the Guantanamo one.

                • DocAmazing

                  Which promises did he break? –Besides the Guantanamo one.

                  -Shovel-ready construction projects
                  -Ending the Bush tax cuts
                  -Putting the solar panels back on the White House roof(symbolic, but Jesus, requires no work whatever)

                  Now if we want to argue over what the meaning of the word “is” is, we can talk about Iraq and health care.

                • Emily

                  The policies that have lead me to the “my vote and nothing more” conclusion are:

                  Guantanamo
                  Patriot Act
                  Wiretapping Immunity
                  Persecution of whistleblowers

                  claiming the right to execute American citizens without due process of law

                  to name a few

            • Maybe if you’re a little smarter, you’ll understand what’s going on, and instead of being a chump, you can be aware.

              You can still jump up and down and say that cutting Medicare benefits is a bad idea without going all emo about what a terrible traitor Barack Obama is.

              What kind of asshole does any of those things, either the dangling or the gloating?

              Somebody who values furthering the liberal agenda over your feelings does the dangling.

              Somebody who’s put up with an inordinate amount of your shit for, as is now blindingly obvious, no good reason does the gloating.

              even while they demand my vote and my money as their right

              Nobody thinks you should support the Democrats because it’s their right. You shouldn’t support the Democrats for their sake; you should do it for your sake and the sake of everyone else in the country who isn’t a rich, white, straight male.

              • Holden Pattern

                Yes, it’s unacceptable to say that what Obama proposes is a bad idea and a betrayal of the new deal, because, why again? Is it just your point that one can’t say “Obama is proposing”? That makes no fucking sense.

                I can’t be bothered to keep up with your endless multi-subject posts and goal-moving — I think you’re wrong in your analysis, and I think you are personally a dick. You are very much like many successful team-jersey Dem apparatchiks I’ve met — contempt for people who don’t toe the party line, whatever it is that day, contempt for people who believe in things on principle, worshipping at the church of the savvy.

                • Yes, it’s unacceptable to say that what Obama proposes is a bad idea and a betrayal of the new deal, because, why again?

                  I’ve never written a single word about saying a proposal is a bad idea.

                  Not one single word.

                  But, as I knew, and as you are just starting to figure out, he never actually proposed those things. It was a stunt to float trial balloons for effect. In point of fact, the shooting down of those trial balloons was the point.

                  What Nancy Pelosi did – did you ever see me write a single negative word about her and her push back? Nope. You didn’t.

                  But no matter how many times I explain this point to you, you aren’t going to get it.

                  Oh well.

                • I think you are personally a dick.

                  I think the idea of (insert policy position here) is a bad idea.

                  Work on understanding the difference.

          • Anonymous

            God I hope you’re right. (And I think you might be. I just can’t share your confidence and certainty…)

          • rea

            You never believed in Social Security more than Obama did.

            I’ve got to say, this is warranted after Prof. Campos’ post yesterday, in which he managed to make the same damn fool argument against raising the Medicare eligibility age that GWB & Co. used to call for the privatization of social security

  • Holden Pattern

    Oddly, the public blames everybody about equally for the deadlock, seems largely uninformed and for some reason seems to think that raising the debt ceiling is a bad idea, especially if we don’t cut the runaway spending:

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/148454/Debt-Ceiling-Increase-Remains-Unpopular-Americans.aspx

    In other words, all of the floated “we must cut spending” proposals by the Administration certainly does seem to be having an effect — people believe it.

    The crosstabs are not terribly instructive as to the partisan weighting, so maybe it’s all bosh, but it certainly seems as if the hypothesized 11-dimensional chess model of making the Republicans look bad by agreeing with them much of the time is a bit too subtle for regular folk.

    • Holden Pattern

      Oh, and as to this:

      What this signals is McConnell’s recognition that he’s overplayed his hand, and that if the Socialist Death Panels have to euthanize grandma because her social security check bounced* the GOP is going to get the lion’s share of the blame (where have we seen this movie before?).

      I don’t think this is what happened. I think what happened is that Tom Donohue called up McConnell and said “Don’t you fucking do it, Mitch, you turtle-faced bastard. This is far too close for comfort.” That’s the hand that McConnell overplayed.

  • Murc

    Honestly? I’d take this deal. For reals.

    However, I’d insist it be offered by McConnell and Boehner. As in, the actual bill itself would need to have their names on it.

    • Malaclypse

      And the spending cuts should be “not a penny of federal money for anything to any state that joined the Confederacy, on an infinite time horizon.”

      • I don’t like fighting over the juicy bits.

        I’m just happy to watch the beast fall to the ground.

        • DocAmazing

          Don’t count your beasts before they’ve fallen.

  • Jay B.

    Wait. This trial balloon is supposed to be a big WIN? Bluffing with trillions in cuts and waving Social Security in front of the GOP’s face for, um, some reason all to win something that was a pro forma vote up until the GOP saw how they can get what they want by playing their version of the madman theory with the Bush Tax Cuts extension.

    This entire farce is reminiscent of nothing more than this.

    This was a fake crisis, ginned up by cynics and acerbated by a political party that, at this point, seeks to play games with a few of its actual achievements to placate some invisible constituency.

    • Yeah, it totally isn’t important to get the debt ceiling raised without big spending cuts.

      This was the biggest weapon the Republican Party had to pass its most important agenda item, and they got squat.

      That they were going to get it was, among certain people, a done deal two hours ago, and the cause of much consternation.

      And now it’s dead.

      Spin all you want, that BFD.

      • Joshua

        I think jfL is right.

        The R’s couldn’t stop talking about their big debt ceiling fight. They were itching for it. They wanted it, real bad. They got it… and now the boxed turtle is presenting the legislative equivalent of a sternly worded letter.

        It’s of course not a done deal yet, but it certainly seems as though Obama beat the GOP pretty badly on this one.

  • Linnaeus

    Okay, the discussion upthread ran out of replies, but I think I do have to address this:

    Really?

    Is that how you go about analyzing politics?

    What public figures say? Even when you know they’re trying to out-maneuver each other?

    No, I don’t assume what public figures say is the gospel truth. I’m saying that their statements constitute evidence which I try to use to figure out what they’re going to do. Particularly when I don’t have total access to the process.

    Sure, there’s lots of reading between the lines and so forth. Putting cherished programs in front of the noses of the Republicans raises the stakes quite a bit, and that carries risk. I didn’t panic and I wanted to wait and see what would happen, but given the radicalism of today’s Republican Party, I see no fault in being concerned about the risk.

    • Holden Pattern

      And now it’s all about the tea leaves — is this Obama baiting the Republicans and the suckers who believed Obama the candidate, or is it him telling the truth?

      No way to know, so just believe in HIM, because the leader will always to the right thing. That’s where all this leads.

      • Shorter Holden: I was right to be wrong, because I was wrong for the right reasons, while you were wrong to be right, because you were right for the wrong reasons.

        Where have I heard that before?

        • That’s not shorter.

        • Malaclypse

          You heard it from someone looking to punch hippies, in order to justify a stupid, pointless war that lead to countless deaths.

          • Holden Pattern

            But it’s still good for punching hippies, because fuck them.

          • Not hippies: there were a whole hell of a lot of us who opposed the Iraq War that aren’t the left’s version of the 27 percenters.

            I heard it from people looking to punch me.

        • Holden Pattern

          It’s also a lie and a distortion.

          I still don’t think you’re right, and I think that Obama is willing to cut those programs — McConnell got cut off at the knees by his funders (who have in fact stated publicly that they have no patience with this bullshit — unless that was a double bluff too).

          • I still don’t think you’re right

            Of course you don’t.

            Even though things went the way I said, and the opposite of the way you said, that doesn’t make me right.

            Heavens, no!

        • Holden Pattern

          And waddyaknow, my upthread response does apply to jfl after all.

    • A reasonable stance. Obviously, when these leaks came out, Democrats needed to slap the proposals down. They needed to react.

      So, what have we learned from all of this?

      I say, most of all, we learned that a “trial balloon” about an ongoing deal isn’t actually an indication of what Obama intends to do or is willing to do, but is something he does for effect.

      We’ve learned that he’s a damn good negotiator, and interpretations of events based on the opposite assumption aren’t going to yield good a good understanding of what’s happening.

      We’ve learned that he pursues indirect routes towards his goals, so preliminary maneuvers that look like he’s going off in a different direction don’t mean it’s time to panic. (People really thought he was looking to sell out Social Security and Medicare because he has a conservatism-based objection to the New Deal? Really?)

      We’ve learned that he uses a superficial appearance of triangulation in pursuit of the liberal agenda, as opposed to Clinton, who used actual triangulation in pursuit of a centrist agenda. (Yes, the liberal agenda can be defensive in certain times and places.)

      We’ve learned that he had incorporated the howls from the left as a tool for this strategy. He deliberately got everyone from Nancy Pelosi (who probably knew what he was doing) to Armando on Daily Kos (who clearly didn’t) to give Boehner and McConnell a lesson in the political reality of entitlement reform.

      Frankly, I think that this episode should motivate people to take a look back at other events over the past two years in a new light.

      • Linnaeus

        The situation still has to play out, but indeed, I’m feeling better about it than I did a couple of days ago.

        • Democrats…jaws…rescuing.

          Yeah, I know. That goes without saying.

          • Linnaeus

            That wasn’t quite what I meant. More like “the situation’s still volatile, stuff’s still going on behind the scenes”, blah, blah, blah.

  • Anonymous

    This deal isn’t going anywhere. Obama WANTS CUTS. He’s an Eisenhower Republican, a Very Serious member of the Village. Joe’s orgasmic display of hippie punching, trumpeting of Obamas 11 Dimensional Chess etc. before a deal has even been reached is exhibit one on what happens to ones mind when it puts aside rationality to follow a Political Leader.

    • Mmmm….mmmmm!

      Yummy troll tears! Mmmmm!!!

    • Ed Marshall

      Yeah, except I’ve known Barack Obama since he was a State Senator (to the extent that he might recognize me and know my name) and worked on his Senate run. He isn’t a Republican of any sort, he is someone who doesn’t like to lose. If you use that calculus everything he does makes sense. He doesn’t get in fights that he won’t win. That’s the whole story.

  • Walt

    Come on, joe. Obama obviously wanted cuts. He was going for a grand bargain beloved of institutional Washington, like the 1985 tax reform. If the Republicans had been willing to say yes, he would have accepted their yes.

    If the whole thing was just theater, he wouldn’t be publicly talking about how we need to restore business confidence, since that gives ammunition to the Republicans. The parsimonious explanation for his behavior is that he thinks that solving the debt problem will stimulate the economy, the way it seemed to do for Clinton. The long-term budget situation has to eventually be handled some way, so I’m sure Obama figured why not now, since it would help restore business confidence at the same time.

    • Walt

      Here’s evidence that Obama was serious in proposing cuts.

      • For what it’s worth, I also think Obama’s offer was not insincere. And I agree with the possibility of a Grand Bargain. Let’s remember that Medicare is in horrible shape, and that Social Security is indexed to wages and not prices. The buying power of SS recipients is slated to go way UP over the next forever, and that’s not what the program is for. It’s meant to be social insurance against poverty, and to require everyone to have skin in the game to make it politically untouchable. It’s a beautiful thing.
        I think Obama was willing to make incremental long-term cuts in both programs while preserving everything about their structures — in exchange for very significant concessions. And I applaud him for it.
        What upsets me is the rumors about cutting Medicaid. That’s just HORRIBLE policy.

        So I do think Joe is missing one side of the story — if by some miracle the Republicans had said yes, Obama would have been willing to compromise. But I think Obama rightly put the odds of this happening at about eight percent.

        Flame away.

        • gmack

          I’ll not get into a discussion about the value of Medicare and Social Security cuts here, other than to say I think they would be profoundly bad ideas. But this I agree with:

          So I do think Joe is missing one side of the story — if by some miracle the Republicans had said yes, Obama would have been willing to compromise. But I think Obama rightly put the odds of this happening at about eight percent.

          I think Joe overstates the case when he insists that these cuts were “never” on the table. When Obama comes out and states in public that “everything” is on the negotiating table, the statement itself puts makes the claim true. One can say that Obama suggested these cuts in a way that made it very unlikely for the Republicans to accept them, and I think this is true; he leaked these negotiating positions to strengthen his bargaining position. But if, in a fit of madness, the Republicans said publicly “yep, we’ll take this deal,” Obama would have been boxed into doing some sort of compromise along those lines.

          Finally, I am still pretty concerned about the effects of all of this. We still don’t know what the deal is going to be; we also don’t know if the Republicans will, say, use Obama’s proposals to run against him from the left in the next election (“Obama was trying to cut Medicare!” Which can link up to their attacks on the ACA too). To my mind, the main thing this incident illustrates is just how utterly screwed up our national political system is. The best case scenario is that the debt ceiling gets raised as part of no deal, in which case all of Obama’s “brilliant negotiating,” and all of the shouting about it, becomes irrelevant and forgotten in the coming weeks. He expended enormous time and energy to achieve something that any normal system would have occurred routinely. That he had to do so, of course, is not his fault exactly, but I find nothing to celebrate in any of this: even the best case outcome here will do little to improve things, particularly our economic problems and the absurd discourses about them that predominate in Washington.

          • Doesn’t the profundity of the badness of the idea of cutting Medicare and SS depend on how ‘profound’ the cuts are? I think solving the shortfall in Social Security with a solution that’s 1/3 benefit cuts, 2/3 revenue increases (ahem! estate tax!) would not be nearly so bad as people think. Remember, seniors’ buying power under the given system is going UP every year, very significantly. Obviously I’d like to see bigger benefits for poorer people than for richer people but that’s not how the system is set up — for good political if not good policy reasons.

            As to Medicare, IPAB should be making cuts. Whether additional ones are a good idea depends on what they are. Raising the age of eligibility is clearly NOT a good idea.

            Sorry, I know you said you didn’t want to get into the merits but I think it’s worth pointing out that even the ‘nightmare’ of the GOP saying yes has good consequences in the outyears and (since Obama is no dummy) pretty minimal ones in the short term.

            But: NO MEDICAID CUTS! Please! Duh.

            JvdH

            • I should have specified once again, since it can’t be said often enough, that the SS shortfall is way off in the future and is a tiny tiny problem. But the Republicans have fetishized it the way they fetishized the idea of ‘tort reform.’ So let the babies have their bottle, in exchange for real concessions.

              • mpowell

                This is a bad idea. We increased SS contributions in the 80s to deal with the Boomer retirement. But after running up an enormous surplus, did that stop the Republicans and Very Serious People from bitching and moaning when the fund stopped running surpluses and started dipping into that cash pile? No. We can make adjustments to SS when we need to and no sooner.

                • And there are so many more important deficit-related problems ahead of it in line.

                • Hogan

                  That increase would have been a better idea if FICA wages hadn’t stayed essentially flat for the next fifteen years.

            • gmack

              No need to apologize JvdH. My reticence to talk about entitlement cuts is not binding on anyone else :) Mostly, it’s a function of a lack of knowledge of (or of much interest in) the ins and outs of the negotiating positions. I’m not a technocrat, policy wonk, or Washington insider, and so my opinions about what would be a good deal or not are relatively useless.

              There’s a sense in which I agree with you in principle. Were I an advisor to Obama I suspect I’d be trying to figure out a way of protecting/strengthening Medicare while also extracting concessions in the process (I’m more dubious about the value of a Social Security bargain, since my understanding is that there are fairly easy fixes that wouldn’t require cuts at all). However, as a democratic citizen and actor, I have pretty much a bright line. Medicare cuts, and especially things like raising the age of eligibility, should be off the table.

              I also wholeheartedly endorse your statements about Medicaid.

        • Njorl

          I agree. I think Obama was willing to go through with any offers he made. He may have been “selling out” parts of some programs, but he was probably asking a very high price. I would even go further. I believe Obama would have preferred a deal. It turns out, that the Republicans do not have the power to deal. They don’t have adequate control of their party caucus in the House. Boehner would have needed significant Democratic support in the house to pass any sort of deal. Then we would have speaker Cantor.

          • For this theory to be correct – that Obama was actually working for a deal – you would have to believe that he thought, in July 2011, that the Congressional Republicans would agree to a trillion dollar tax hike.

            Two and a half years after he came to office….

            Twenty-five months after he included 1/3 tax cuts in the ARRA in order to get the last few votes in the Senate…

            Eight months after the 2010 elections…

            Seven months after the Republicans ended their Senate filibuster and allowed him to pass his lame duck agenda in exchange for a 2-year extension of the Bush tax cuts…

            Three months after the Ryan Deficit Plan, which included a massive tax cut…

            You would have to believe that Barack Obama was actively thought he would be able to get Republicans to sign onto a deal to implement a massive upper-income tax increase.

            I just don’t think that’s a plausible position to attribute to him.

        • Ed

          The Grand Compromise would not have secured the future of Medicare or Social Security. More likely it would have been the first step on the road to death by a thousand cuts.

    • I think Obama was honestly going for a bargain at the beginning, or at least leaving the possibility of one open.

      But it became clear a long time ago that the Republicans weren’t budging, so he also left himself the option of going the route he eventually did.

      These “leaks” that came out over the past week or two – I think those were pressure in his game of winning the fight, not part of an offer for a grand bargain, but the opening up three different rounds of talks (Gang of Six, Biden, Boehner) suggests that he was actually trying to pursue a negotiated solution at some point.

      • Walt

        If Boehner had said yes to the outlines of the $4 trillion deal, you don’t think Obama would have gone along with it? The kind of changes they’ve been floating — like changing the inflation adjustment — are the kind of hard-to-understand technocratic changes that would go into a real deal.

        This is the best deal the Republicans are going to see in years to cut entitlements. They’re going to be kicking themselves forever for not taking it.

        • Republicans care far more about not raising taxes on rich people than in cutting entitlements.

          Republicans passed the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

          Do you think there was ever any chance Republicans would have accepted a deal with a trillion dollars in tax hikes? Half a trillion? Heck, a quarter of trillion? In exchange for anything?

          Do you believe that Barack Obama, over two years into his term, thought they would?

          • Walt

            Why not? Obama offered to give away the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. Why would he do that if he wasn’t serous about a deal? Now they’re going to get nothing out of the debt ceiling fight, and they’re going to go into the Bush tax cut expiration with Democrats having the upper hand (depending on how 2012 goes).

            I’m sure Boehner would take the deal if he could. Tax hikes now for entitlement cuts, now. If the economy improves with the Republicans back in power, the demands on the budget will be smaller thanks to entitlement cuts, they can cut taxes then.

            Now, they’re looking at tax hikes, with no entitlement cuts. When the economy improves, the long-term budget picture will make it harder to cut taxes.

            • Malaclypse

              Why would he do that if he wasn’t serous about a deal?

              Because he knows those cuts will never expire. Tax rates are a one-way ratchet in this country.

            • Obama offered to give away the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

              …in a deal that included a bigger tax hike. It still netted out to a trillion dollar tax increase.

          • Ed

            Do you believe that Barack Obama, over two years into his term, thought they would?

            If he was bluffing, it was quite the gamble. But I suspect he is perfectly comfortable with the notion of raising the Medicare eligibility age and that, as he said, he is willing to put everything on the table.

            • I don’t think that betting against the Republicans’ willingness to raise taxes on rich people by a trillion dollars is much of a gamble at all. I think it’s money in the bank.

              I again find myself in the position of being surprised to discover that a notion I’d never considered remotely controversial around here is being treated with such suspicion.

              Of course fighting tax cuts is the alpha and omega of Republican politics. When did this become a point of such uncertainty around here? You’re like the second or third person now who’s disputed what I’d always assumed was universally understood.

              • Njorl

                In the long run, the smarter Republicans know that during large deficits, all spending is taxation. Trading tax increases for spending cuts really lowers taxation, but pushes forward the schedule for when taxes are collected. The problem for the Republican leadership is that Republicans aren’t very smart right now.

                Boehner knows this. The rank and file congressional Republicans, to a large extent, evidently don’t know, or don’t care.

                • Malaclypse

                  In the long run, the smarter Republicans became “centrist” Democrats.

      • I take this back. No, he wasn’t. Not when he made a large tax increase non-negotiable.

  • I think it would destroy President Obama’s campaign completely if he took such a deal. I can’t imagine who would give him a vote under such circumstances. Proposing this, the GOP insults the intelligence of everyone in America.

  • Anonymous

    I had a party with my cats today
    the great old ones hadn’t awoken
    to walk the earth in an orgy of violence
    a reason to celebrate if ever there was one
    I was still broke

  • CJColucci

    Does McConnell even have the cards he’s representing?

    • mds

      That’s an interesting point, and a reminder that this was a trial balloon, and one that’s been relentlessly shot at from throughout the Right. Are there the votes to get it through the House? Is John Boehner willing and able to push this through with Dems + enough of his own caucus, thereby making it official that Eric Cantor will soon have his job? Heck, does McConnell even have the numbers to successfully invoke cloture on Rand Paul or Jim DeMint? I’d say almost certainly yes for the latter, but meanwhile Boehner has noted that there are 59 House members opposed to raising the debt ceiling at all. How many are left that would support a technically “clean” increase paired with a promise of future cuts? Especially if it meant siding with Pelosi to do it?

      • Is John Boehner willing and able to push this through with Dems + enough of his own caucus, thereby making it official that Eric Cantor will soon have his job?

        A reasonable question.

        I ask you, what life of misery and shame awaits a Republican politician who takes actions at the behest of Wall Street that harm or end his political career?

        • Malaclypse

          I ask you, what life of misery and shame awaits a Republican politician who takes actions at the behest of Wall Street that harm or end his political career?

          We would need an example in order to be sure.

          • OK, fair enough. This would be novel, for a Republican’s actions on behalf of Wall Street to actually damage him among the party- and caucus rank-and-file.

            Let’s enlarge the question: what life of misery and ignominy awaits a politician whose actions on behalf of a large, rich, politically-connected industry harms or ends his political career?

            • Malaclypse
              • You’re so cynical, Mal. The poor guy just wanted to make a difference, and got sick of the Washington game.

                It came down to McGwire-Woods or working with disabled kids at the Y, and come on, a guy’s gotta eat.

                (Lord, but that smooth sociopath scared me when he was in power. Ever look at his eyes? Dead. This is somebody who would do absolutely anything, and then sit down to a nice dinner.)

      • mds

        Hmm … Come to think of it, McConnell’s offer isn’t a long-term one that forces everyone to “eat our peas” and puts off any further action on the debt limit until after the 2012 election. So never mind Boehner; based on his statements from Monday, President Obama would have to veto it.

  • Anonymous

    Trust in Obama with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding

    • I wouldn’t put my name on this sort of garbage, either.

      • Anonymous

        I’m with you, brother Joseph of Lowell. Someone has to teach the Good News to the doubting Naders here.

  • wengler

    joe from Lowell hit a single and has gone into his home run trot.

    It would’ve been a much better to tell the Republicans to just raise the damn debt ceiling. What we have now is some idea as to what the Republicans are going to push for in the FY2012 budget.

    • It would’ve been a much better to tell the Republicans to just raise the damn debt ceiling.

      Boehner: Oh, OK, Mr. Obama! Whatever you say!

      Cantor: That’s a great idea, Barack – can I call you Barack? Excuse me while I rush out in front of the cameras and announce that we’re doing what you told us.

      The Republicans had to be beaten before they would cave. It was a game of chicken, and unless it became clear that one side and not the other was going to take the blame for blocking the deal and stopping the checks from going out to grandmothers-and-veterans-ferchrissakes, no one was going to blink.

      • wengler

        The Republican leaders are employees of the corporate party. That corporate party isn’t and wasn’t going to let the US default due to the lack of a pro forma vote.

        And perhaps you should read the McConnell proposal. It’s filled with turds like “tell us what spending you will offset”.

        • The Republican leaders are employees of the corporate party. That corporate party isn’t and wasn’t going to let the US default due to the lack of a pro forma vote.

          And neither was Obama. Of course it was going to pass: one party was going to give in. Which party that was is determined by who was able to set the narrative so that the other would take the blame for blocking the deal – unless they came to a deal first.

          By making a giant tax increase a non-negotiable position, Obama made sure there would be no deal, freeing him to to pose as Mr. Super-Duper Reasonable, in contrast with the stubborn, fanatical Republicans, and thus, made sure that they would be the ones that had to blink.

      • Njorl

        We don’t know that. When the Republicans took the unprecedented step of making demands in exchange for an increase to the debt ceiling, Obama went straight to bargaining. He never tried to demand a clean bill.

        And it wouldn’t have been a “Yes Mr. Obama whatever you say” deal. Every Republican in a tight district or with higher ambitions would have been allowed to vote against it. Boehner and McConnell could have even voted against it, and “graciously” allowed their caucusses to vote their consciences – provided they rounded up the votes to pass it.

        That’s the traditional debt ceiling kabuki.

        • But the Republicans weren’t playing the traditional debt-ceiling kabuki. They were making demands in exchange for raising it.

          For Obama to respond with a simple “No, give me what I want” would have just allowed the Republicans to pose as the ones eager to reach a compromise.

          It was a totally different kabuki, and Obama had to react to that.

          • Ed

            For Obama to respond with a simple “No, give me what I want” would have just allowed the Republicans to pose as the ones eager to reach a compromise.

            We’ll never know. If Obama had tried to make the case and echoed fewer GOP talking points, maybe more of the public would understand why the debt ceiling has to be raised and his job would be a little less difficult. If you assume that he was looking to “compromise” from the outset, it all seems clear enough.

            • Anonymous

              If Obama had tried to make the case and echoed fewer GOP talking points, maybe more of the public would understand why the debt ceiling has to be raised and his job would be a little less difficult.

              “Bully Pulpit” theory of the presidency : progressives :: global warming denialism : movement conservatives. In each case, the evidence is clearly stacked against them but they just don’t care.

              • Walt

                You think the evidence for _any_ claim in social science is as strong as that for global warming? Are you high?

                • Anonymous

                  No, of course not. It’s not a perfect analogy. But both appear to be widespread beliefs amongst a political subset that are A) clearly contrary to the best available evidence we’ve got, and B) held with such conviction that the evidence for (A), even when presented, is casually dismissed.