Monday, March 19, 2012

Obama's Flubbed Debt Deal and January 2013

Is the mainstream media stepping away from Obama?  That's one possibility in the wake of a tick-tock story in the Washington Post about the debt-deal negotiations last August.

The official line, of course, is that the Republicans are to blame because they refused to compromise.  But WaPo reporters Peter Wallsten, Lori Montgomery and Scott Wilson tiptoe up to a different judgement.
Obama, nervous about how to defend the emerging agreement to his own Democratic base, upped the ante in a way that made it more difficult for Boehner — already facing long odds — to sell it to his party. Eventually, the president tried to put the original framework back in play, but by then it was too late. The moment of making history had passed.
Or you can take Rush Limbaugh's Monday morning judgement: Obama lied. The Republicans had agreed to a tax increase. But Obama wouldn't agree to a plan that would upset his base.

Who knows what really went on. But it becomes more and more clear that the liberals will not agree to genuine spending cuts until the US goes Greek. And after all, why should they? If the money is still there, they should insist on their programs, their tenure, and their sinecures.

The Democrats' man at the Wall Street Journal, Alan Blinder, worries that the federal government is heading for a fiscal cliff in January 2013 unless something is done.
If the House and Senate don't act in time, a list of things will happen that are anathema either to Republicans or Democrats or both. The Bush tax cuts will expire. The temporary payroll tax cut will end. Unemployment benefits will be severely curtailed. And all on Jan. 1, 2013. Happy New Year!
On top of that there are $1.2 billion in spending cuts from the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction that kick in in January.  All told, Blinder predicts 3.5 percent GDP in fiscal contraction in January from tax increases and spending cuts in January unless something is done.

But this is silly.  The reason that all this stuff has been kicked down the road to January 2013 is that there is a stalemate between liberals and conservatives right now.  Liberals don't want to reduce their programs and conservatives are damned if they are going to cough up more dough to fund the liberal welfare state.  Sooner or later, the American people are going to have to choose.  Otherwise, as in the case of Greece, other forces will start to choose for them.

In November the American people will get to choose whether they want President Obama to impose the Democratic solution on this stalemate or whether they want a Republican to impose a Republican solution.  Whatever the solution is, it will be something of a kludge, representing the political state of play that will emerge from the election results.

My betting is that the Democrats would have got a better deal in August 2011 than they will get after November 2012.

Hey, that's democracy.

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