A Flea in the Fur of the Beast

“Death, fire, and burglary make all men equals.” —Dickens

Tag: republicans fiscal cliff

The Best Article On The Fiscal (It’s Not A) Cliff You’ll Read

by evanmcmurry

Chait gets to the core of the stalemate between Obama and Republicans over spending cuts in a direct way I haven’t read anywhere else:

Reporters are presenting this as a kind of negotiating problem, based on each side’s desire for the other to stick its neck out first. But it actually reflects a much more fundamental problem than that. Republicans think government spending is huge, but they can’t really identify ways they want to solve that problem, because government spending is not really huge. That is to say, on top of an ideological gulf between the two parties, we have an epistemological gulf. The Republican understanding of government spending is based on hazy, abstract notions that don’t match reality and can’t be translated into a workable program.

[…] There really isn’t money to be cut everywhere. The United States spends way less money on social services than do other advanced countries, and even that low figure is inflated by our sky-high health-care prices. The retirement benefits to programs like Social Security are quite meager. Public infrastructure is grossly underfunded.

[…] When the only cuts on the table would inflict real harm on people with modest incomes and save small amounts of money, that is a sign that there’s just not much money to save. It’s not just that Republicans disagree with this; they don’t seem to understand it. The absence of a Republican spending proposal is not just a negotiating tactic but a howling void where a specific grasp of the role of government ought to be. And negotiating around that void is extremely hard to do. The spending cuts aren’t there because they can’t be found.

Add on to this the fact that Americans only support spending cuts in the abstract—and not when those cuts affect specific programs or benefits—and you have the perfect conditions for some sort of Beckettian absurdist standoff.

Lessons In Negotiating

by evanmcmurry

From Greg Sargeant:

The basic fact remains that Dems have made a substantial proposal, while Republicans haven’t. Dems have meaningfully detailed what they want, and Republicans haven’t. Republicans keep telling us that Obama must show “leadership” by detailing the spending cuts the White House is willing to accept, and that the Dem proposals are not “serious” because they have yet to do this. But how are we supposed to know what will count as “serious” spending cuts, if Republicans won’t detail what they want? It’s doubly curious that Republicans refuse to do this, given that they keep saying the 2012 election gave them a mandate for cutting spending.

Look, this is just a sucker’s game. What Republicans really mean when they demand that Obama “lead” is that they want him to propose bigger concessions up front so Republicans can denounce them as insufficient — which they would do no matter what he proposed — pulling the debate further and further in their direction.

Just like during the Romney campaign, we’re in a weird netherworld in which Republicans think detailing what they want is the compromise. They think they’re being bipartisan just by engaging in negotiations.

GOP Learns What Obama Was Saying While They Had Their Fingers In Their Ears

by evanmcmurry

One of the more oft heard complaints in the latter days of the campaign, from Democrat as well as Republican pundits and figures, was that Obama had presented no plan for his second administration, but was simply running an anti-Romney campaign and getting away with it. This was a neat way to obscure the fact that Romney had literally offered no proposals, as opposed to just not offering the sweeping type that was suddenly a requirement of Obama (never mind that the moment Obama did begin to talk like this, he was lampooned as having a savior-celebrity complex).

Anyhoo, here’s Greg Sargeant:

A key observation about the new White House offer from the Post reporting team: 

While the proposal seemed to startle Republicans, it contains little that would be unfamiliar to anyone following the president’s public statements.

Obama campaigned on much of this stuff, and won. It’s not surprising it’s in his opening bid.

It is if you were making TelePrompter jokes while he was talking. Republicans refused to listen to anything Obama said, then accused him of saying nothing, and are now shocked that all the stuff he was saying while they smirking has a fighting chance of becoming policy 32 days from now.