Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Let's meet back here in a couple of months and do it all over again.

Fiscal roller coaster survived! Now let's run over to Debt Ceiling Mountain and ride that one!

Setting a looming deadline to avert self-created calamity has become a frequent device for the U.S. Congress to get things done in recent years. When all else fails, as it often does, it's supposed to frighten members into action.

That was the idea when Congress created the "fiscal cliff" in August, 2011 to resolve a partisan struggle, also with a deadline and also self-created, over raising the federal debt ceiling.

Catastrophic budget cuts, timed to coincide with the threat of hefty income tax increases, would finally produce big cuts in the soaring federal budget by December 31, 2012, or else.

It didn't work. 

I'm not much into the 'soaring federal budget deficit' part, as you might guess. End the wars, raise all the taxes on the wealthy, institute a federal jobs program similar to the New Deal, and we'd be running surpluses just as we did in the Clinton years by the end of 2016.

But a few on my side of the aisle still want to grumble.

So, we have a modest deal in place to avert the contrived crisis known as the fiscal cliff. Washington is celebrating the fact that Congress averted the disaster that it created out of thin air last year.

Some say that it's not a bad deal on its merits, but we'll have to await final judgment until we see what happens with the debt ceiling, which has to be raised in the next two months. If the White House stands firm on its refusal to negotiate over the debt ceiling again, and doesn't give any more concessions, then we can look back at this deal as a pretty good one, on balance. 

I suspect this will become the center-left conventional wisdom, and only dirty hippies will be bitching. So pass the patchouli, because I hate this deal. 

Though often regarded as a DFH despite my Neiman Marcus ties, I don't hate this deal. Yes, because the Social Security payroll tax goes up, the middle class gets to pay a bit more. But the benefit of that is that it resolves some of the "cut entitlements/we're going broke" bullshit coming out of the mouths of douchebags like Lindsey Graham.

Still, even Paul Krugman bitched about the deal.

So why the bad taste in progressives’ mouths? It has less to do with where Obama ended up than with how he got there. He kept drawing lines in the sand, then erasing them and retreating to a new position. And his evident desire to have a deal before hitting the essentially innocuous fiscal cliff bodes very badly for the confrontation looming in a few weeks over the debt ceiling.

If Obama stands his ground in that confrontation, this deal won’t look bad in retrospect. If he doesn’t, yesterday will be seen as the day he began throwing away his presidency and the hopes of everyone who supported him.

While I would not hesitate, normally, to give the president a kick in the shins over his negotiating acumen, even I find PK's criticism a little harsh. John Aravosis mocked Krugman over his recalcitrance.

I’m sorry, but this doesn’t make much sense.  We got what you wanted, but you still feel we lost because you don’t like the way the President got what we wanted.  What was wrong with the President’s approach, I ask?  He caved on his promises, you say.  But if the President caved on his promises, then how did we end up with what you wanted?

I’m the first to criticize the President for his “cave first, negotiate later” negotiating style – and we criticized him heavily during his first term on this very point.  But I think it’s significantly harder to argue that “he caved” if you also claim that he got what you wanted.

And while I am no defender of Obama's in this regard, the truth is what it has always been for him: his competitors imploded in wave after wave of infighting and vitriol among themselves.

Just check in on any conservative website. Big Jolly is so mad he's calling for a primary challenge to John Cornyn for voting 'yes' on the bill.

Fact: I would quit blogging about politics and never look back if the Republicans weren't such a hilarious clusterfuck. They are truly funnier than the simian habitat at the zoo during mating season.

Oh, the Texas Republicans still get my goat with their wanton and intolerable cruelty. But their "success" also has to do with the quality of their competition. The only response to the question of how Democrats keep losing to them is that Texas -- outside the big cities--  is full of gun-and Bible-clinging, Walmart-shopping, oilfield trash and drugstore cowboys.

(But that's a digression, probably worthy of getting me disinvited to ride on someone's bus for next week's opening session of the Texas Legislature. Meh. I'll catch a ride later on Lobby Day with some progressive organizations.)

Meanwhile, let's pop some corn, watch the TeaBaggers in Austin pick a fight next week with Joe Straus and lose, and ride the Debt Ceiling Tilt-a-Whirl in a couple of months.

Update: Why Everyone Hates the Fiscal Cliff Deal


John Robert BEHRMAN said...

Well said.

"Debt ceiling Tilt-a-Whirl"


PDiddie, aka Perry Hussein Dorrell said...

Tilt-a-Whirls are manufactured -- as of a couple of years ago -- by a company in Plainview, Texas (where I used to work for the newspaper, in the mid-to-late '80s).

A brief and informative Wiki, including the fact that the contraption demonstrates chaos theory: