Nothing is certain in life but death and “various fees.”
I wholeheartedly endorse Mark Thiessen’s advice to the Republican Party, and hope they take every word of it:
I wish more Republicans were like Barack Obama.
Really. Give the president his due: he fights for what he believes in.
In his first year in office, Obama faced a popular backlash against his stimulus spending bill and saw a Republican elected to Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in a referendum on Obamacare. Yet despite these and other setbacks, the president declared he had no intention of moderating his approach. “The one thing I’m really clear about is that I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president,” Obama said in a January 2010 interview.
That attitude is precisely why Obama is a now two-term president.
Instead of backing down in the face of a rising tea party movement, Obama doubled down.
Thiessen was apparently in a cave for 2010-11 when Obama offered nothing but concessions to the Tea Party-fueled Congress, only to be told ‘no’ so many times that Obama wondered publicly if the GOP would ever take ‘yes’ for an answer. We all know what happened next: the debt ceiling debate caused a downgrade in America’s credit rating and the GOP took the lion’s share of the blame, to their continuing electoral detriment. Obama did nothing but offer concessions to the GOP for eighteen months, and by refusing to accept any of them, the House GOP caused a calamity for which they were rightly blamed. If anything, Obama should be given credit for a give-em-enough-rope strategy, except I don’t think that’s what he thought he was doing. If it was, Thiessen wouldn’t know it, anyway.
He knew full well that that the majority of Americans disagreed with Obamacare, but he believed it was the right thing to do. So he rammed it through Congress, passing it over the near-unanimous opposition of the Republican Party and the objections of the American people.
That’s an oldie! I haven’t heard the characterization of the most debated bill in legislative history as being “rammed through Congress” in at least a year. (Also, since when is having the votes to pass something “ramming it through?”) If you’ll recall the health care debate, Obama offered Republicans numerous opportunities to work on the bill, all of which they ended up refusing in what now appears to be the real gear-up of the GOP’s current extreme iteration. In doing so cost themselves any input on (and thus any credit for) the defining legislation of the past decade. Someone should write an article about that (and then get fired for it).
Or take taxes…Obama strong-armed the GOP by making clear he was ready to take the country over the fiscal cliff and allow taxes to rise on every single American. He was willing to let the country go into recession if he did not get his way. He knew he had political leverage, and he used it without hesitation — forcing his political opposition to bend to his will.
Why can’t Republicans do that?
Instead of using Obama’s Chicago-style, brass-knuckle approach…
Thiessen must be talking about the time Obama made unforced concessions to avoid the fiscal cliff, and Boehner left the bargaining table to facepalm into “Plan B.” The House GOP brass-knuckled itself, buddy. In fact, that seems to be the connecting thread of its failures. In every one of Thiessen’s examples, Obama made clear overtures to the Republicans—at times, capitulating in advance—only to be rebuffed by an extremist party that then got none of what it wanted, and in some cases got a heaping of blame instead. Thiessen is saying that the Republicans need to do more of this, bigger and louder and harder.
Here is a better idea: Republicans should take a page from Obama’s playbook, do what they think is right, use all the leverage at their disposal and stop worrying about the electoral consequences.
Again, Republicans: please, please, please take this advice.
I started reading this Economist article with hopes that it was going to point out the failure of the fiscal cliff nonsense with a call for American politicians on the right to stop trying to destroy the economic recovery that is starting to get momentum, only to find that it is simply another hand-wringing, both-sides-are-at-fault moralism about America’s long-term debt problems. The Economist writes:
FOR the past three years America’s leaders have looked on Europe’s management of the euro crisis with barely disguised contempt. In the White House and on Capitol Hill there has been incredulity that Europe’s politicians could be so incompetent at handling an economic problem; so addicted to last-minute, short-term fixes; and so incapable of agreeing on a long-term strategy for the single currency.
Aha, let’s watch Europe fail at doing more than short-term fixes for a big problem, but the same thing is happening to the United States. Surely the answer is to stop this series of manufactured crises and focusing on a long-term strategy for getting the economy going. It continues:
“Rather than facing an imminent debt crisis, as many European countries do, it needs to deal with the huge long-term gap between tax revenue and spending promises, particularly on health care, while not squeezing the economy too much in the short term. But its politicians now show themselves similarly addicted to kicking the can down the road at the last minute.”
After making sure I didn’t hurt myself from smacking my hand firmly into my face, I thought, “wait, what?”. The problem is not dealing with any long-run problems in matching spending and revenue. After all, the long-run projections are based on estimates which, while made with credible inputs and a well-understood methodology do not provide much certainty with how much revenue and spending there will be in 20-50 years from now.
What will make a dent in a long-run problem that we can see with much more accurate data, and have a much more readily available solution to? Growth. Raising Employment. As much as the solution to the current slow economy is clear to anyone who has not put on a blindfold and stuck their fingers in their ears (“na, na, na, I can’t hear you!”), the solution to the slow economy is 1) at least stop adding a drag on the economy in the form of government spending cuts; and 2) maybe think about spending increases in areas that will benefit the US economy in the long run since debt can be issued cheaply and there are plenty of unemployed people so it will be cheaper to hire workers to build it now than it will when the economy fully returns to health.
Of course, the Economist realizes that the problem is primarily on the Republican side with the idea that government spending is heresy. Oh, wait:
“America’s Democrats and Republicans have proved similarly incapable of reaching a grand bargain; both are far too driven by their parties’ extremists and too focused on winning concessions from the other side to work steadily together to secure the country’s fiscal future.”
Seriously? Words are hard to come by to describe how much hokum this is. Both parties’ extremists? Let’s see, when it came to the stimulus bill in 2009, how many Republicans supported it? That’s right, zero, none. Because government spending is socialism and Kenya, and blahblahblah.
I read the Economist because it generally has a more rational coverage of the news than the useless crap that comes out here where the media is so afraid of being accused of being ‘liberal’ that they always play the ‘both sides are at fault’ angle (something Krugman referred to years ago as the “Shape of the World: Views Differ” idea). The Economist is not a liberal (in the American sense) magazine, and its typical conservative (although not by American Republican Party standards) outlook should give it cover to point out that, no, in fact it is not both sides at fault. The Democratic Party was not coming out in 2011 and suggesting that defaulting on our debt might be no big deal (which has unfortunately been said again with reference to the debt ceiling that will create a US default again in March 2013).
The big lesson from the European crisis was that the obstinacy of one party (Germany in the case of the European debt crisis) will force a situation of greater and greater economic damage in order to avoid abandoning their fixation on one issue (for the Republicans, it is allowing any success for Obama, any increase in government spending or the expiration of any tax cuts). In 2010 it was the initial expiration of the Bush tax cuts (Obama wilted and allowed a 2-year extension). Then it was the debt ceiling in 2011 and the debt commission that came up with an incredibly unappealing solution that was still unacceptable to Republicans. Then it was the “fiscal cliff”, which has been pushed back 2 months (the spending cuts, Obama gave up enough of his leverage to get a deal done on the Bush tax cut expiration). Now it is the debt ceiling again and the sequestration again.
This is what caused the prolonged damage from the European crisis. The desire by Germany to crush those sinners in Greece, Italy, Spain, Ireland and Portugal made no actual solution possible (the solution largely requires economic growth and debt write-offs) and the result is a series of recurrent crises, many of which appear the same as earlier crises that were ‘solved’ by late-night agreements. And it is not because they didn’t cut spending enough (they couldn’t because every spending cut added to the intensity of the recession guaranteeing that the targets set for economic growth and deficits would fail to be met, creating another crisis). The political equivalent is happening because of the Republicans’ intransigence. Every politically-generated crisis leads to a late night agreement that postpones the issue and promises no help to the economy and after the commission set up or whatever fails to find a solution because the Republicans refuse to negotiate in good faith, the cycle repeats itself.
And until people are honest about what the major problem is (and what it is not) and who is at the center of the failure to deal with the problem (if you missed it, that problem is slow economic growth and high unemployment), then it will be hard to find a solution. The more things are hidden by the media discussing other non-pressing problems or describing the situation in false equivalence (both sides are at fault), I’m going to keep pulling my hair out. </rant>