September 11 Was a Curse. Nothing More.
August 24, 2011
“I want to see some history!” So went Johnny Rotten’s desperate plea in 1977. But the front man for the Sex Pistols, cursed in so many ways, was not cursed with living in especially interesting times. We are. And, yes, it’s all been very adrenalizing, to the point of downright exhilaration and even mass delirium. But, for all the cheap speechifying about civic vigor and American cohesion, September 11 was a curse. Nothing more. In the direct aftermath of September 11, policy- and opinion-makers acted in ways that responded to multiple needs unrelated to that day.
How the Debt Committee Could Turn Republican Against Republican
August 02, 2011
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.
One of the bizarre things about John Boehner's debt ceiling bill is that all the Republican opposition has come from the right. Nobody in the party thinks the bill is too recklessly conservative. Amazingly, Republicans all seem to believe Boehner's fairy story about how passage of his bill will lead to Senate Democrats passing it and President Obama signing it. Charles Krauthammer says Obama "won't dare" veto it.
One of the underrated impediments to a debt ceiling hike is the Republican belief that any agreement with President Obama is by definition a bad one. Part of this is the rational partisan urge to deny Obama a big accomplishment he could use to position himself for 2012. Another is a simple heuristic. Budget agreements are convoluted and require assumptions about how present agreements will bind future actors.
Getting To No
July 22, 2011
Michael Tomasky underscores an underrated impediment to any debt ceiling or deficit deal -- large segments of the Republican Party will automatically oppose anything that President Obama supports: The fight is partly about legitimate ideological differences, and it’s partly about the Republicans seeing a rare opportunity to use the occasion to win some big cuts to the domestic budget and maybe entitlements if they’re lucky. But let’s be real. It’s also about not giving Obama a victory. In fact, on a deep emotional and psychological level, it’s chiefly about that.
Do Privately Negotiated Budget Deals Count?
July 20, 2011
The Republican party has made a lot of hay blaming the Obama administration for the deficit it inherited in 2009. That line of attack has become more difficult to sustain since President Obama offered Republicans a $4 trillion deficit-cutting deal tilted overwhelmingly toward spending cuts -- indeed, if we assume that the Bush tax cuts on income over $250,000 expire, it consists entirely of net spending cuts. And so, to sustain their position, Republicans have leaned heavily on the concept that budget cuts offered in private negotiations don't count. They're not real.
Krauthammer Having Trouble With Concept Of Bargaining
July 15, 2011
I'm on vacation, but this Charles Krauthammer column in my morning paper is so wildly obtuse I cannot restrain myself from blogging about it. Krauthammer argues that President Obama's claim to favor a deficit reduction deal is phony because he's offering it in closed door negotiations: All of a sudden he’s a born-again budget balancer prepared to bravely take on his own party by making deep cuts in entitlements. Really? Name one. He’s been saying forever that he’s prepared to discuss, engage, converse about entitlement cuts.
Planes, Boats, and Paris Hilton: Why Can’t Democrats Master the Politics of Synecdoche?
July 09, 2011
It’s a choice between “kids’ safety” and “tax breaks for corporate jets” according to President Obama’s clearest explanation of the budget showdown in a press conference last Wednesday. The Republicans’ staggering refusal to consider even the most minimal efforts to close tax loopholes—because it would cross the line of their blood-oath to tax lobbyist Grover Norquist—was boiled down to the tangible phrase, repeated six times, “corporate jets.” The reaction, especially but not exclusively on the right, was disparaging. It was simultaneously “class warfare” and futile.
Obama Steals The Deficit Hawk Mantle
July 08, 2011
President Obama, as I've argued before, badly bungled by allowing the debt ceiling vote to turn into a hostage crisis which may well exact a horrendous economic toll. But he has clearly turned the politics to his benefit very recently, snatching the mantle of deficit hawk away from the Republicans.
In the wake of the New York special election, conservative pundits engaged in a frenzy of spin asserting that the House Republican budget was not to blame and that people actually liked it, or would like it once it was properly explained. The extent to which they actually believed this is unclear. In any case, the line of defense has quietly disappeared.