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My Offer Reflects the Fact That Elections Have Consequences

[ 125 ] November 29, 2012 |

Interesting — after re-election we have a very different Obama that was at least formally willing to give away the store in 2011:

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner presented the House speaker, John A. Boehner, a detailed proposal on Thursday to avert the year-end fiscal crisis with $1.6 trillion in tax increases over 10 years, $50 billion in immediate stimulus spending, home mortgage refinancing and a permanent end to Congressional control over statutory borrowing limits.

The proposal, loaded with Democratic priorities and short on detailed spending cuts, met strong Republican resistance. In exchange for locking in the $1.6 trillion in added revenues, President Obama embraced the goal of finding $400 billion in savings from Medicare and other social programs to be worked out next year, with no guarantees.

He did propose some upfront cuts in programs like farm price supports, but did not specify an amount or any details. And senior Republican aides familiar with the offer said those initial spending cuts might be outweighed by spending increases, including at least $50 billion in infrastructure spending, mortgage relief, an extension of unemployment insurance and a deferral of automatic cuts to physician reimbursements under Medicare.

This is more like it. Obviously, nothing like this has any chance of being enacted, and nor will it make House Republicans more likely to make a deal.  But it is encouraging for two reasons:

  • It makes it clear that Obama is willing to maximize his leverage by letting the Bush tax cuts expire.  This isn’t the proposal of someone who’s particularly interested in making a deal to avoid “going over the cliff.”   And after the Bush tax cuts have expired Obama’s hand is much stronger.
  • It makes it more likely that the terrible deal he offered in 2011 was based on the idea that any “grand bargain” would help his re-election, rather than an inherent commitment to the underlying principles.   This deal has the right priorities — significant new revenue, needed stimulus spending, and to the extent that “entitlements” are cut this is done correctly:  Social Security not touched, unspecified Medicare cuts that can be progressive because they don’t necessarily entail cuts to services.

Since I’ve been meaning to get to Corey Robin’s question for a while, it’s probably as good a time as any to address it:

Doesn’t Obama have good reasons not only to lead us over the fiscal cliff, but also to keep us there? That is, not negotiate any kind of deal with the Republicans, neither before nor after January 1? Unless you assume Obama doesn’t want cuts to entitlements — which I don’t assume; I believe he’s an austerian of Reactionary Keynesianism — think about what he gets if he allows the sequester to go through: slightly higher tax rates, cuts to entitlements, and cuts to defense. Those seems like classic New Democrat/Clintonite goals.

It seems to me that the question is built around a faulty premise — that is, that the sequester has entitlement cuts.   In fact, the sequester specifically excluded entitlements and focused on discretionary spending.  Social Security and Medicare are specifically excluded from the sequester; the only “entitlement” cuts that would result from going over the fiscal cliff are the cuts to provider payments that would be scheduled to happen anyway.    This is not only important in itself, but is also an important consideration given the assumption that Obama is inherently dying to slash entitlements.  If this was true, it is (to put it mildly) hard to understand why the sequester excluded them.   And, in fact, going over the fiscal cliff makes it less likely that bad entitlement cuts will be enacted.

This isn’t to say that progressives shouldn’t worry.   Until a deal is reached, we should!   This first bid is encouraging, but until there’s an actual deal skepticism and political pressure from the left are very much in order.    However, it is important for progressives not to fall into the Pain Caucus trap of discussing the single program MedicareandSocialSecurity.    Any cut to Social Security benefits — especially a raise in the retirement age, which is the kind of thing that can get traction only because most elites have jobs that are rewarding and physically undemanding — should be fiercely resisted.   Medicare cuts, conversely, can be good or bad depending on the details.   Single payer systems are better in part because they impose “austerity” on providers, drug manufacturers, etc. — this isn’t an inherently bad thing.   As any progressive should recognize, the U.S. spends far, far too much on health care.  If Medicare is cut by paying less to drug companies,that’s good.  If it’s cut by raising the eligibility age, that’s bad (and, since Medicare is more efficient just cost-shifting.)

Comments (125)

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  1. given the assumption that Obama is inherently dying to slash entitlements. If this was true, it is (to put it mildly) hard to understand why the sequester excluded them.

    Excluding entitlement programs from the sequester, expanding Medicaid through the ACA, and taking no action whatsoever to reduce Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits, is just an attempt to lull us into a false sense of security. In his scheming, Kenyan heart, Barack Obama dreams of confiscating everyone’s guns doing away with the New Deal.

    • Jacob Davies says:

      This is pretty fucking funny and I’m surprised nobody else has said so.

      The persistent belief among liberals that Obama is a secret right-wing Republican despite, you know, passing universal healthcare and defending Social Security and Medicare from substantive cuts is exactly the flipside of the secret Muslim socialist image on the right.

      In shocking news, the dude pretty much is what he appears to be.

      • I remember when the theory that Obama was a Manchurian Candidate who only pretended to be a moderate liberal, but was actually faking his way into power so he could implement the nefarious agenda of his radical Chicago buddies, was found primarily on the right.

  2. Corey Robin says:

    Hey Scott. Just a quick comment. It’s not entirely true that I assumed the sequester included a ton of entitlement cuts; I had written about the sequester last year and was fairly up on the details. (I had already written that Social Security was exempt.) What is true is that my memory of how much we were talking about in terms of Medicare cuts was exaggerated. That said, when I dug into it around the time of my post I found out some interesting stuff. First, the total cuts for Medicare would be roughly $120 billion over an 8 year period. On the question of whether the provider cuts were already slated to happen, I kept seeing conflicting reports. So I’m still not really clear on all that. But more important, as Ezra Klein pointed out in one of his posts last year, different kinds of provider cuts can have a very big impact on beneficiaries (he pointed out how something just that like that had had happened with Medicaid). It’s all in the details, so I think we shouldn’t be so sanguine about this. A lot of this is way above my paygrade, but Doug Henwood has also made a lot of arguments in keeping with Ezra’s point — you should check with him if you’re interested — that these sorts of cuts can have major effect on beneficiaries. Finally, what’s gotten very little reporting is that the sequester would also impose cuts on certain aspects of the public exchanges of the ACA. I assume we think the ACA is an entitlement, so that should count. But on the larger point of your post here — this is a much stronger opening position — I agree.

    • Ian says:

      While it may be true that provider cuts end up affecting users, putting only provider cuts into the sequester is not the action of someone who wants to cut entitlements for the sake of cutting entitlements.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Fair points. It’s possible that provider cuts could affect healthy care delivery; I’m open to the argument.

  3. DrDick says:

    Have to say that this is rather encouraging and something that I wish we had seen more of four years ago.

  4. Rarely Posts says:

    Notably, however, major cuts to discretionary spending are likely very bad for progressive priorities. Across the board cuts to federal agencies will be bad for the overall economy (austerity), and they will also reduce the quality and quantity of federal employees and the benefits provided by various federal agencies. FEMA, SNAP benefits, environmental protection and regulation by the EPA, the justice system, the Forest Service, science and technology research, etc. – lots of good, effective, progressive programs may be cut.

    I’m glad that Obama is leading with a strong demand, and I agree that Social Security needs to be off the table. Personally, I might support Medicare cuts that not only reduce spending but even, potentially, reduce certain benefits (though not with a raise in the eligible age). However, liberals and progressives need to remember that lots of chunks of discretionary spending are often even more important for achieving our goals than entitlement spending. We make a mistake by elevating entitlement spending on a pedestal and downplaying discretionary spending — we should be characterizing Republicans as trying to slash major important programs.

    • Corey Robin says:

      I would just add to what Rarely Posts is saying: what’s almost never mentioned in these discussions about the sequester is that it is Part 2 of the debt deal that was negotiated in August 2011. Part 1, which still stands and will go forward no matter what happens with the deal, entails something like 1.5 trillion in cuts (and of course no tax increases), 1/2 of which are cuts in domestic discretionary spending: Head Start, food stamps, and so on. Those cuts are locked in.

      • T. Paine says:

        Since I happen to be a federal employee, let me say that the fiscal cliff, with it’s five weeks of furlough is a bad deal for me. It’s probably also a bad deal for the country to have a ton of government employees get a lot less money (both for them personally, and for the taxes they won’t pay/money they won’t spend).

        • catclub says:

          Could you post a link. I think that is news.

        • Anna in PDX says:

          I was not aware of this consequence either. I do not know what to hope for now. Obviously the republicans are not in a bipartisan mood.

          • tonycpsu says:

            I work for a federally-funded research center, not directly for the feds, but I’ve never heard anything about any across-the-board five week furlough.

            My understanding is that the measures each agency would need to take would be based on how the spending cuts fall their particular programs. Since the federal fiscal year runs October through September, most agencies are going to have enough funds disbursed to make payroll with their existing staffing levels, but would need to make significant adjustments to make it through the Spring and Summer. In that case, furloughs in early January would seem to be gratuitous.

            The same goes for those with federal contracts (like myself) that are roughly aligned with the government’s fiscal year — the checks are already cashed, so you just need to worry about when that money runs out and it’s time to re-up.

            I’m sure Mr. Paine will correct me where I’m wrong, but I don’t see why the furloughs would begin unless several weeks or months go by and there’s no end in sight.

        • brightside says:

          At least you get to use your furlough days. I have had a couple years of the salary reduction without the time off.

        • Marek says:

          I am related to a federal employee. Based on briefings, they expect furloughs.

          • fledermaus says:

            I’m also a federal employee but I haven’t heard anything. On the other hand my agency has different funding than most and we are currently working manditory OT. I’d hate to see the place after 5 weeks off.

    • mpowell says:

      I agree on the discretionary spending point. There are probably a considerable number of discretionary spending programs where the marginal dollar spent is more valuable than entitlement spending for the general wellfare. And this will probably be more and more true as spending is cut. It makes me wonder which would be easier to get back in the future, though.

  5. I concluded that the the White House was looking to go over the “cliff” when I heard that the tax increase Obama was demanding went up to $1.6 trillion. During the debt ceiling talks, he set it at $1 trillion, and then upped it to $1.4 trillion when there was a chance Boehner might accept $1 trillion.

    I don’t think the Republicans are going to accept a deal that makes them vote for $1.6 trillion in top-heavy tax increases. I think they’d rather let the Bush tax cuts expire and howl about it, than get their fingerprints on a bill like that.

    And I think that’s the point of the number $1.6 trillion.

  6. Scott P. says:

    There was never any good evidence Obama was willing to “give away the store” in 2011, other than some thirdhand quotes of something David Axelrod was supposed to have said.

    • laura says:

      There was a fair amount evidence… although it may have been because he knew Republicans would never accept his offers.

    • Corey Robin says:

      Here’s the July 19, 2011 White House memo Bob Woodward obtained laying out their terms for a deal. I don’t know how you define giving away the store, but there are a lot of concessions in there. People still debate the point Laura raises — whether it was simply b/c they knew it would never be accepted — but the fact is the specific details of this were kept secret for a fairly long time, so it’s hard to believe it was all about public posturing in order to present the GOP as intransigent. http://presspass.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/11/11/15089281-white-house-grand-bargain-offer-to-speaker-boehner-obtained-by-bob-woodward#__utma=238145375.1160293964.1343333706.1352063009.1352694519.34&__utmb=238145375.18.9.1352695347972&__utmc=238145375&__utmx=-&__utmz=238145375.1352694519.34.26.utmcsr=google

      • laura says:

        I’m not so sure. The fact that this was leaked to Woodword (of all people) a good while after the fact suggests some strategic motivation… it was obviously in the White House’s interest to appear as the reasonable party (hoping to break the “on the one hand on the other”-ness of press coverage).

        I’m not fully defending the White House. I think they took a serious risk in making such an offer to the GOP (and it’s clearly legit or else Republicans would have denied it angrily when it leaked and kept denying it). But a case could be made retrospectively that the Dems played it exactly right. The GOP does look like the crazy party now (post election) and that is forcing Republican senators to scurry to the left and allowing Obama to lead with a strong hand in the current negotiations.

      • the specific details of this were kept secret for a fairly long time, so it’s hard to believe it was all about public posturing in order to present the GOP as intransigent.

        I’m not understanding why the less-specific leaks that preceded that memo’s release don’t count as evidence of public posturing.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        I think this is right. As far as I can tell there’s good evidence that Obama made the offer; the question is whether he knew it would be rejected because it contained tax increases. I had tended to assume the latter, but if I understand correctly Noam Scheiber’s book (which I haven’t read) has some support saying that Obama was willing to do it.

        • penpen says:

          I don’t think it’s in Obama’s character to make a “naked” bluff.

        • david mizner says:

          I could show you the birth certificate but you’d say it’s a forgery.

          • An awesome comparison, because a politician’s statements during a negotiation are so precisely comparable to a stamped, official document.

            • david mizner says:

              Well it requires roughly the same level of denial.

              It’s not his ‘statements during a negotiations”; it’s his actions — trying to pass a deal that included cuts to social insurance programs — actions that have been extensively documented.

              Do you have even a single piece of evidence suggesting he never intended to pass the deal he was — by all accounts — trying to pass?

              Didn’t think so, birther.

              • Well it requires roughly the same level of denial.

                You don’t understand how stupid it makes you look to write this, do you?

                You just wrote that denying Barack Obama’s birth certificate is authentic after it has been certified as such by the State of Hawaii, and thinking that the offers he made in negotiations with Republicans were not made in good faith, require “roughly the same level of denial.”

                You were so eager to get to you cheap little insult, that you didn’t pause for a minute to think before you hit “submit” after writing that.

                You’re so awesome. Boy, do I ever feel put in my place now.

              • Do you have even a single piece of evidence suggesting he never intended to pass the deal he was — by all accounts — trying to pass?

                Yes – his actions during negotiations, which I have repeatedly referenced and discussed at length. I’m using exactly the same set of evidence that you are; I’m just drawing more reasonable conclusions – which is probably I was able to accurately predict the outcome of the negotiations, and you weren’t.

                Pro tip: when you ask a question, it’s generally best to see if someone can answer it before you proclaim that they cannot.

      • Timb says:

        Corey, as a reader of your blog and a purchaser of your last book, I’d just like to say its nice to read you here too. Doesn’t mean we always agree (I am the only person who is 100% right about everything), but you do add a ton to. The comment section

    • Of course their was evidence: the White House itself swore up and down that they were really, really serious about doing all sorts of horrible things, if only that nice Mr. Boehner would agree to $1 trillion in tax increases. Wait, did I say $1 trillion? I meant $1.4 trillion.

      Oh, wait, you said good evidence. Never mind.

      • Corey Robin says:

        Stop the posturing, read some of the texts. Read the White House memo I posted. Read the Jonathan Chait piece Scott links to in his piece, which says the WH was willing to ask for only $800 billion. Chait is no Green Laternist. Take a look at the record of the congressional Super Committee, where the Dems with WH approval brought their tax increase proposal down to $400 billion. And of course there’s the fact that Phase 1 of the deal has zero provision for tax increases at all. Mostly, if you want anyone to listen to you besides yourself and maybe the people who already agree with you, try to pretend that this at least a conversation and not an opportunity for you to prance and preen all over the stage.

        • Anonymous says:

          OUCH! That’s gonna leave a mark on someone…

        • I’ve read “the texts,” thanks. How, exactly, is the existence of the offers supposed to be evidence one way or the other that the offers were serious? That’s not much of an argument.

          As for posturing, prancing, and preening, you seem to be the one bringing the drama, Corey.

          • Corey Robin says:

            You said, “Of course their was evidence: the White House itself swore up and down that they were really, really serious about doing all sorts of horrible things, if only that nice Mr. Boehner would agree to $1 trillion in tax increases. Wait, did I say $1 trillion? I meant $1.4 trillion.” Those texts show that those $1/$1.4 trillion provisions were not always in fact provisions of their offers. If you now want to change your point to be whether the offers, without a $1/$1.4 trillion proviso, were serious or not, that’s a different issue. But that’s not what you said. And it’s not what I was responding to.

            • david mizner says:

              Stop trying, Corey. No amount of evidence will convince the deadenders.

              The fact that President Obama was willing to and tried to pass a ‘GB’ that would’ve cut social insurance programs is of the one more well documented stories from his first term.

              At the outset of his presidency he declared on national TV that he would seek just such a deal, he formed BS to that end, he sought a deal, he would have accepted it according to dozens of sources, and afterward openly stated that he would have accepted it.

              To deny this fact requires one to slip into the kind of 11th-dimensional chess argument that parodies itself.

              To deny this fact requires one to slip into

              • mark f says:

                So why didn’t they get one done, particularly after the 2010 midterms?

                • david mizner says:

                  Well I’ve only read about 50,000 thousand of the million or so words written on the topic. The general consensus seems to be that Boehner couldn’t bring his party along (while Obama could.) Here’s one of many thorough accounts.

                  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/magazine/obama-vs-boehner-who-killed-the-debt-deal.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

                  Obama felt confident enough to tell Reid and Pelosi, during a meeting in the Oval Office that Thursday evening, that a grand bargain was imminent. The president told his Congressional leaders that he had given Boehner a choice: either the two sides could go for the bigger bargain that Obama wanted, with the nearly $1.2 trillion in revenue and the spending cuts they were already close to nailing down, or they could do a smaller version, with the original $800 billion in revenue but a smaller slate of cuts. Obama told Reid and Pelosi that he understood that this would seem like a choice between a bad deal and a worse deal, but he wanted a commitment from them that they would get behind the agreement. Neither of the Congressional leaders was wild about the prospect, but they quietly pledged they’d have the president’s back….in the end, while both leaders had profound reservations about a grand bargain that would threaten their parties’ priorities, what’s undeniable, despite all the furious efforts to peddle a different story, is that Obama managed to persuade his closest allies to sign off on what he wanted them to do, and Boehner didn’t, or couldn’t.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  The general consensus seems to be that Boehner couldn’t bring his party along (while Obama could.)

                  It is unpossible that Obama knew that going in. I mean, Republicans have historically been flexible on tax hikes, and everybody know that.

                • david mizner says:

                  Please read the articles or books. Obama wanted a deal. He thought he had one. He told Pelosi and Reid a deal was close. There was no chess or judo going on.

                • mark f says:

                  How does this refute JFL’s contention that it was all tied to tax increases? Especially since the article says exactly that. That just puts us back to what Obama “wants” vs. “will accept.” It seems like since he’s in a stronger position now it’s more important to see how things develop from here.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  This is the puzzle. There does some to be some real evidence that Obama thought that a deal is possible. What I don’t understand is how he could have thought that given his insistence on tax increases. The 11-dimensional chess argument actually makes more sense in this case (which doesn’t mean that it’s right.)

                • mark f says:

                  And look at Bai’s intro:

                  The Republican version of reality goes, briefly, like this: Boehner and Obama shook hands on a far-reaching deal to rewrite the tax code, roll back the cost of entitlements and slash deficits. But then Obama, reacting to pressure from Democrats in Congress, panicked at the last minute and suddenly demanded that Republicans accede to hundreds of billions of dollars in additional tax revenue.

                  [. . .]

                  In the White House’s telling of the story, Obama and Boehner did indeed settle on a rough framework for a deal, but it was all part of a fluid negotiation, and additional revenue was just one of the options on the table — not a last-minute demand.

                  Is the Republican version really at all plausible? Were it true, is it then plausible that they somehow couldn’t get a deal done? A flat “no” to both would seem to suffice.

                • david mizner’s bitching about “those people” is not a terribly good reason to believe an argument. Sadly, it’s all he ever has.

                • There does some to be some real evidence that Obama thought that a deal is possible.

                  The question is not whether he thought “a” deal was possible. The question is whether he though a deal including a 13-digit tax increase was possible.

        • Take a look at the record of the congressional Super Committee…

          The one that was formed AFTER the debt ceiling negotiations took place? This is also not much of an argument, in terms of the White House’s posturing DURING the negotiations.

          The Super Committee negotiations also included very different language about entitlement cuts, in addition to a different tax offer. Did you really think you were going to slip that in there – pretend that the White House offered SuperCommittee tax offer against debt-ceiling-talks entitlement cuts?

          • And of course there’s the fact that Phase 1 of the deal has zero provision for tax increases at all.

            …and also zero provisions for entitlement cuts. I’m not sure how this is supposed to demonstrate a willingness to cut entitlements in exchange for tax hikes.

            • Corey Robin says:

              I’m not sure either. Which is why I never suggested it was.

              • Actually, you did. You cited the debate in the SuperCommittee as evidence of Obama’s intentions in the debt ceiling negotiations.

                We can still read your old comments, you know.

                • Corey Robin says:

                  Oh, now I see what’s going on: you’re actually just not that…careful a reader. “Phase 1 of the deal,” my friend, does not refer to the Super Committee negotiations. It refers to the round of cuts in discretionary spending that will be done over a ten-year period regardless of what the Super Committee would negotiate. That was one part of the deal Obama struck in August 2011. The Super Committee negotiations are about phase 2 of the deal: if the committee couldn’t come up with a deal for further savings, then the sequester would eventually kick in. The Super Committee met throughout the fall after the August 2011 overall deal was announced, and it eventually failed to reach an agreement. So now that we’ve clarified that, let’s move on to why I brought up the lack of tax hikes in Phase 1. It wasn’t, as you claim, to make the point that Obama was willing to swap entitlement cuts for tax hikes (what are you, high? and stupid?) because of course there were no tax hikes in the phase 1 part of the deal. It was to make the point that your insistence that Obama’s bottom line of 1.4 trillion tax hikes in the negotiations was belied by the fact that a) he had in fact agreed to 800 billion in the negotiations; and that b) in Phase 1 there were no tax hikes at all (and I added a 3rd point about how in the Super Committee negotiations the Dems, with WH approval, went down to $400 billion in tax hikes). See: Re-read the exchange, and you’ll see there’s nothing in there about swapping tax hikes for entitlement cuts. Now stop wasting my time.

          • Corey Robin says:

            I wasn’t trying to slip anything in there, Nancy Drew. I was just pointing out that another phase — phase 2 — of the negotiations, the Dems on the Super Committee (who did consult with the WH) were willing to support much lower tax increases. Suggesting that the line in the sand you claim was drawn — and which Chait shows was actually crossed during the summer 2011 negotiations — may not be as indelible as you might think it is. And of course the Super Committee negotiations included different language on entitlement cuts: their negotiations were supposed to be an alternative to the sequester.

            • I was just pointing out that another phase — phase 2 — of the negotiations, the Dems on the Super Committee

              But I didn’t say anything about what the Dems on the SuperCommittee were willing to do, during that “Phase 2″ negotiation. Rather, my comments were about what President Obama was willing to do during the debt-ceiling negotiations.

              And of course the Super Committee negotiations included different language on entitlement cuts: their negotiations were supposed to be an alternative to the sequester.

              …which means you can’t cite the tax number in the SuperCommittee negotiations as what they were willing to accept in exchange for the entitlement cuts that Obama “put on the table” in the debt-ceiling talks. As I said.

        • Timb says:

          Oh and Joe, he got re-elected, so you can stop the hagiographic love.

          • Marc says:

            Corey is the one demonstrating the Dunning-Kruger effect.

            • timb says:

              Are you new here? Corey is a leftist and is unhappy about Obama’s moderation.

              Joe has a picture of Obama tatooed to his heart and has never criticized Obama.

              As an example, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16 year old was murdered in a drone strike, sans due process (much like his father). The Obama administration’s drone war, especially when it targets American citizens, is illegal.

              http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-airstrike-that-killed-american-teen-in-yemen-raises-legal-ethical-questions/2011/10/20/gIQAdvUY7L_story.html

              Now, just wait for it, Marc

              • Grow up, timb.

                If you have nothing to add to the discussion, shut up.

                “If?” Lol.

              • BTW, raising a wholly-irrelevant issue that causes you to have very strong feelings about Obama doesn’t make the case that my opinion on the relevant issue is based on my feelings about the man. Rather, it makes that case about you.

                The only connection between the debt ceiling debate and the war against al Qaeda are you feelings. You should make an effort to use your gut less.

            • Corey Robin says:

              That would be more effective as a putdown if I understood what it meant. Here’s a tip: When you’re trying to embarrass someone, it’s best to do it in such a way that they will, you know, feel embarrassed. So avoid jargon, and try to speak in your native language rather than in some pretentious jargon you learned in a class. Simple stuff like that.

              • Corey Robin says:

                That comment was meant for Marc.

                • Marc says:

                  The entire question on the negotiations hinges on intent. Did Obama make offers that he was certain would be refused (in an effort to appear reasonable?) Or did he really want to slash social spending?

                  You’re pretending that the offers on the table indicate an actual desire to betray Democrats.

                  I and a lot of others knew with complete certainty that the Republicans would never, ever agree to tax increases. Any proposal that included any was a poison pill, and Obama knew it. This puts his offers squarely into the “make me look reasonable” camp.

                  Your evidence is irrelevant to the central question, yet you pretend that it’s some sort of gotcha. Dancing in the end zone from a false sense that you’ve scored points is what I was referring to.

                  Oh – and you’d be more convincing as a blogger and writer if you made some attempt to understand the opinions of people who disagree with you, as opposed to simply asserting that you’re always right and crowing over imagined intellectual triumphs. Just a tip.

                • DrDick says:

                  Marc -

                  Frankly, we have no way to know Obama’s “intent”, since we cannot read his mind. What we have is the evidence of his actions and statements, which allow us to infer, however imperfectly, what his likely intent was. Corey makes a reasonable case for his position based on the available evidence. What you “knew” is totally irrelevant, since you are not Obama or one of his advisors. I think you may want to look in the mirror when discussing the Dunning-Kruger effect.

                • What you “knew” is totally irrelevant, since you are not Obama or one of his advisors.

                  What a foolish statement.

                  Marc, the fact that everything turned out as you predicted in no way makes you right, because you don’t work in the White House. So there. Or something.

                • DrDick says:

                  Marc, the fact that everything turned out as you predicted in no way makes you right

                  If he had in fact made such an argument this comment might have some relevance, but he did not. He said that, based on what he knew (offering no evidence that this was actual knowledge rather than simply opinion), that Obama was not serious. It still would not be correct, given that the negotiations are just beginning, so nothing has in fact “turned out as he predicted” as yet. Nice to see you back in troll mode again.

              • ajay says:

                That would be more effective as a putdown if I understood what it meant.

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning-Kruger_effect

                • Chatham says:

                  Well, I’m sure that people that bring that up are humble, willing to admit that their current position may very well be wrong and quick to point out past mistakes they made.

  7. somethingblue says:

    … skepticism and political pressure from the left are very much in order.

    Who are you and what have you done with Scott Lemieux?

  8. tonycpsu says:

    I like the offer, but will the White House and congressional Democrats fold at the first sign of a few days of consecutive 200, 300 point Dow drops?

    I want to believe that the Dems can hang on until the New Year, but Charlie Brown was also sure he’d get the football.

    • will the White House and congressional Democrats fold at the first sign of a few days of consecutive 200, 300 point Dow drops?

      That probably depends on what the press says, and what the polls say, about who is getting the blame.

      • tonycpsu says:

        So, in other words, I should stock up on canned goods and ammunition. Got it.

        • Well, so far, it’s been the Congressional Republicans who are getting the blame.

          And that’s certainly what happened last time.

          • tonycpsu says:

            The polls, sure, I agree the people are generally pointing the finger at the right people (though it’s still too close given where the actual responsibility for the problem lies.) But the press coverage during the debt ceiling fight was at best “BothSidesDoIt!” and at worst “Come on, Democrats, the GOP just wants to eat your lunch, why won’t you just give it to them?”

            I have noticed the media’s doing a better job lately, but I feel like a lot of that is just because everyone loves a winner, and Obama’s election was only three weeks ago. If this drags on for a couple more weeks, and we start to see market volatility (even if it’s not actually related to the gentle fiscal incline) I think the Chuck Todds and Jake Tappers and Chris Matthewses of the world could turn on a dime and demand that the captain steer away from the iceberg.

            • I have noticed the media’s doing a better job lately, but I feel like a lot of that is just because everyone loves a winner, and Obama’s election was only three weeks ago. If this drags on for a couple more weeks, and we start to see market volatility (even if it’s not actually related to the gentle fiscal incline) I think the Chuck Todds and Jake Tappers and Chris Matthewses of the world could turn on a dime and demand that the captain steer away from the ice berg.

              I agree that this is a threat the White House is facing; the press will naturally try to make the President the bad guy. That tendency is like gravity, and Obama has to keep poking the balloon back up into the air.

              And right on cue, he goes on a nationwide tour.

              • JKTHs says:

                False equivalence in the press is as established as anything. It’ll be even worse now that Obama made a partisan offer, even though Republicans haven’t made any offer.

            • NonyNony says:

              I have noticed the media’s doing a better job lately, but I feel like a lot of that is just because everyone loves a winner

              This is true.

              And once you internalize this fact you will understand a major reason why, with a few exceptions, Republicans have had an outsized influence on our national press corpse since the 1970s.

    • Timb says:

      What a buying opportunity. If only I had money

  9. Anonymous says:

    Just say “no deal”. Over the cliff we go…and just wait until the debt ceiling comes up again…we will get everything we want and THEN some in a few months with the second round of debt ceiling negotiations.

    • Malaclypse says:

      Yes, Jennie, you are an astute prognosticator.

      • Timb says:

        Is that the revanchist position? I heard Levin talking about it the other day. They are delusional

      • NonyNony says:

        If taxes get raised and stuff gets cut as much as the “fiscal incline” deal suggests, doesn’t that actually reduce the need to raise the debt ceiling any time soon? Because, you know, less spending and more revenue?

        I’m seeing a small flaw in this plan…

        • JKTHs says:

          No, they’re already almost at it. It will significantly reduce the amount by which they’ll raise the debt ceiling but it won’t eliminate the need to do it early next year.

        • Bill Murray says:

          but it may not be more revenue because cuts have revenue implications too. We may get cuts and less revenue, which brings the debt ceiling closer

  10. I hope that everyone is writing and calling their senators and congress-creatures. It is one of the more useful things we can do. I sent a couple to my corporate senator, Dianne Feinstein, one regarding Susan Rice, the other regarding this fiscal business.

  11. Wafflebot2000 says:

    Scott: ” Any cut to Social Security benefits — especially a raise in the retirement age, which is the kind of thing that can get traction only because most elites have jobs that are rewarding and physically undemanding —”

    Most elites have jobs for life, no matter how much they f*ck up. The rest of us are at best Wal-Mart greeters, if not permanently unemployed after some time in our 50′s.

  12. Barry says:

    Sorry, that was me.

  13. scott says:

    Whenever a bunch of Washington politicians with a tenuous connection to the lives of the rest of us get together in a room talking about shared sacrifice, I’ll be nervous, especially after what we learned Obama was willing to give up in the summer of 2011. But this is at least mildly encouraging and seems to suggest that he’s gotten out of the habit of pre-compromising before bargaining actually begins. We’ll see.

    • Njorl says:

      Yes, shared sacrifice usually means some people get the bleeding duty and some get the cutting duty.

      • JKTHs says:

        No it’s just that shared sacrifice involves proportional sacrifice from groups that have disproportionate ability to withstand such sacrifice.

        Raising the retirement age don’t mean shit to rich people who have substantial savings but it means a lot to the person with no savings, no pension, and a physically demanding job.

  14. [...] points from Scott Lemieux on the significance of Obama’s opening bid: It makes it clear that Obama is willing to [...]

  15. JKTHs says:

    The centrists must be pissed. They were hoping Obama would open with Simpson-Bowles minus the revenue from the upper-income tax cuts and eventually the compromise would end up somewhere near the Ryan budget.

    • DrDick says:

      The centrists must be pissed.

      A thought that brings a smile to my face.

    • Brian Rogers says:

      Andrew Sullivan is already worried that the president is overreaching and missing a grand opportunity to… start negotiations somewhere right of center, I guess.

      “But he just got re-elected. It’s a classic time for magnanimity – and yet he began the critical negotiations by poking the defeated GOP in the eye. This is not the new politics. It’s the old partisanship. I hope it works. I fear it won’t. “

  16. Cartman says:

    {facepalm}

    Nobody has universal healthcare. Not even after it’s fully implemented will it be honestly “universal”.

    Obama handed corporations billions of dollars in enforced customers that hopefully will be better than having no healthcare at all.

    Creepy how Obama supporters never did the math on how much corporations could be expected to profit from Obama’s plan until there was fear that the Supreme Court might eliminate it.

    Suddenly there were pseudo-liberals trying to explain how bad the elimination of Obamacare would be to _corporation’s profitability_.

    And yes, that’s closet Republicanism: Corporations profiting from expanded government.

    Liberals, true liberals, know that it would have been more efficient and cost-effective to go straight to any of a dozen superior healthcare models that the rest of the industrialized world uses: Namely, telling corporations to go F# themselves.

    • brewmn says:

      Liberals, excuse me “true liberals” are apparently too stupid to understand that Congress passes legislation, not the president. Also too stupid to understand that legislation that says “go F# themselves” to corporations has the support of at best a quarter of that Congress, the one that passes legislation, even in the best of times.

    • Malaclypse says:

      Liberals, true liberals, know that it would have been more efficient and cost-effective to go straight to any of a dozen superior healthcare models that the rest of the industrialized world uses: Namely, telling corporations to go F# themselves.

      You do realize that, aside from Britain, most of the rest of the industrialized world does not actually preclude corporations from participating in health care, right?

      • guthrie says:

        Britain has been welcoming corporations to suckle at the public teat for 4 or 5 years now at least. The current government is apparently aiming at a total corporate take over of the healthcare system, except for the payment bit, which would still come out of our taxes. Thus we get the worst of all worlds.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      I assume you also opposed food stamps, since they’re just a bailout of Big Food?

      I’m also going to guess that roughly 99% of the people asserting that having health insurance is useless 1)have health insurance and 2)wouldn’t trade it for wages even if they could.

      • JKTHs says:

        I’m also going to guess that roughly 99% of the people asserting that having health insurance is useless 1)have health insurance and 2)wouldn’t trade it for wages even if they could.

        This.

      • DrDick says:

        Exactly. I also favor single payer or national health (a la Britain and Canada), but what we have now is a huge improvement over the prior system and greatly expands health coverage. Certainly it is not sufficient, but I cannot see how people say that it is a bad thing, especially since neither of my preferred options was actually on the table or had much chance of passing.

    • sharculese says:

      Creepy how Obama supporters never did the math on how much corporations could be expected to profit from Obama’s plan until there was fear that the Supreme Court might eliminate it.

      Suddenly there were pseudo-liberals trying to explain how bad the elimination of Obamacare would be to _corporation’s profitability_.

      None of this happened.

      • mark f says:

        Are you sure? He did put it in bold text, after all.

      • Njorl says:

        Right. In fact, something close to the opposite happened. When the ACA decision came down, the values of the insurance companies declined. Markets get a lot of things wrong, but they don’t usually screw up very well defined calculations like this one.

    • Liberals, true liberals, know that it would have been more efficient and cost-effective to go straight to any of a dozen superior healthcare models that the rest of the industrialized world uses: Namely, telling corporations to go F# themselves.

      Of course it would have been. I’ve yet to meet a liberal (even a not-true-liberal) who thinks that the ACA model is superior to single payer.

      But so what? The failure of the the ACA wouldn’t have resulted in “single payer,” but in “nothing.”

  17. So, we’re left with two possibilities for Obama’s bold opening offer.

    1. He’s making a sky-high opening offer as part of a plan to get talked down to a good result. This is not consistent with his negotiation strategy to date.

    2. He is making a bad-faith offer in order to avoid the blame for the failure to reach a deal that he does not want to see happen. There are several seeming examples of this from his first term, including the debt-ceiling negotiations, and his response to Maliki’s proposal to keep troops in Iraq. Not an outright no, but an offer that the other side can never accept.

    • Brandon C. says:

      I think its probably a little of both. You get your ideas in the media, so they get airtime and people get used to the idea, and then on the other hand you also have cover in case nothing happens.

  18. Cartman says:

    Republican policies like Obamacare*, celebrated by pseudo-liberals as a ‘progressive victory’, shows just how corrupted our political landscape has become.

    The blind rage that Obama supporters have when Obama’s Republican policies are explained to them is the kind of leader worshipping authoritarianism I’d prefer to associate with the right.

    * Honest informed people knows that Obamacare was the right-wing Heritage / Republican Dole / Romneycare health care plan wet dream.

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