If you haven't already read Kara Brandeisky's story about how the Clinton administration handled the debt ceiling in 1995, you should definitely do it. As she notes, the circumstances were different in 1995. Republicans were somewhat less fixated on the debt ceiling, and also somewhat less destructive and crazy. But they weren't that much less destructive and crazy: “Nobody should assume we’re going to have a debt-limit extension,” John Boehner warned. “If the vote were held today, it would not pass.” Sound familiar?
When two implacably opposed sides negotiate an agreement, often it's because they disagree on what the agreement means. The supercommittee plays this role in the debt ceiling deal. Tasked with finding $1.8 trillion in deficit reductions, or else triggering cuts to spending concentrated in defense, Democrats think they'll get a balanced solution and Republicans think they'll just roll the Democrats again.
The post-mortems on the debt deal are showing the degree to which, as I've suspected, the Obama administration completely misunderstood the Republican Party. Laura Meckler and Gerald Seib's tick-tock is especially good. Here are the negotiations bumping up against the fundamental ideological divide in American politics: The next day, a Friday, a small group of Boehner confidantes warned the speaker about the political risks of working with the president. "The danger to him is making a deal with no one standing behind him," said one.
I'm still shocked and dismayed that President Obama tried so hard to cut a budget deal with Republicans that, in return for enormous concessions, would have raised no more revenue than we'd get if the Bush tax cuts for income over $250,000 expire on schedule. William Galston, by contrast, argues that Obama blundered by asking for too much revenue, thereby blowing up the negotiations: If news accounts are accurate, the Obama/Boehner talks broke down when the president proposed increasing the revenue component of the grand bargain from $800 billion to $1.2 trillion.
Grover Norquist is always filled with triumphalist theories, and his book elucidates one favorite Norquist claim, that shrinking revenue will turn the Democratic coalition (the "Takings Coalition") against itself in a cannibalistic orgy: The Takings Coalition can hold together as long as there is more money flowing into the state to finance the demands of each constituent group.
-- What's the deal with Norwegian sentencing? -- How the Super Committee can raise taxes. -- Why left-of-center parties all over the world are having problems. -- Matthew Yglesias's five books that influenced him. -- You won't like William Gale when he's angry.
Nate Silver, upon reflection, decides that the debt ceiling agreement isn't really so bad for liberals: given that Democrats were willing to accede to the constraints demanded by Republicans, they were able to exert a lot of control over the substance of the cuts. In particular, the first round of cuts will include $350 billion in defense savings, while the second round would include between $500 and $600 billion in defense cuts if no bipartisan agreement is reached.
Andrew Breitbart has clipped an exchange from today's press at conference at the White House. In the exchange, reporter Norah O'Donnell press Jay Carney by asking, "Democrats are saying, 'You gave them everything they wanted and we got nothing." Commentary has picked up the story, giving it the headline, "CBS's O'Donnell to Carney: We got nothing." CBS’s Norah O’Donnell peppered Carney with terse, accusatory questions about the lack of tax revenue (read: tax increases) in the debt ceiling deal.
The nickel summary of the debt ceiling deal is this: We don't know whether it's a good deal or a bad one until we see how President Obama handles the Bush tax cut expiration. The deal itself does not limit Obama's ability to secure a positive outcome if he plays his tax hand strongly, but it does diminish one's confidence that he'll do it. Here's Matthew Yglesias: the president’s description of his own thinking was disturbing. He complained that Republicans had held the national economy hostage to their extreme demands.
One of the cliches bouncing around constantly is that President Obama "owns the economy." Pay attention to the way Karl Rove uses the phrase here, seguing from a weird description of a bakery closing to blaming it on Obama: when the restaurant closes Sunday, 14 people will lose their jobs. Its patrons will lose a favorite joint, and the neighborhood will lose some sense of community. There are worse hardship cases in America, but this one is bad enough. It is in large part the result of the economy that Mr. Obama owns. "Owns" is a political term.