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Hullabaloo


Thursday, February 07, 2013

 
Begging to be grow-ups: how the Democrats are destroying their own legacy

by digby

Greg Sargent reports that the democrats in the Senate are arguing among themselves as to whether to open the sequester negotiations with an offer of "a balanced approach" that includes more spending cuts along with some phony "revenue" or just open with the phony revenue:
“Democrats plan to bring a balanced plan that includes revenue and cuts to the table to avoid sequestration,” a Senate leadership aide tells me.

I couldn’t determine how much in cuts is being discussed, or where they would come from, but the aide noted that Dems have offered spending cuts “in every fiscal negotiation.” The aide said Dems were eying a possible one-to-one mix of cuts to revenues, or perhaps somewhat more in revenues, to stake out a stronger negotiating position.

There’s disagreement among Dems about how to proceed. The aide tells me that progressive Senators want a revenue-only offer but that Dem leaders disagree. “There has been significant pressure within the Democratic caucus to offer a revenue-only approach, but leaders have concluded that they must continue with the balanced approach that the American people have called for,” the aide says. “This is about being the adult in the room and offering a plan that can actually pass Congress.”
The President has already screwed the pooch on this with his statement that the Fiscal Cliff deal he offered is still on the table so there's really no point in pretending that the Democrats won't be offering up more cuts. Still, it could be useful if they at least tried to bluff a little bit before caving. It might not end up being quite as bad as it otherwise would be. (Of course, that means that Cokie and Ruth Marcus might not give them plaudits for being grown-ups and that would be the worst thing that could possibly happen.)

This could annoy some on the left who may worry there’s no percentage in offering cuts, since it will only allow Republicans to deride them as unserious and ask for still more, shifting the debate in their direction. But the White House is already on record saying it supports averting the sequester through a mix of revenues and cuts, so not even Obama could support an approach that only includes revenues. 
What’s more, despite the left’s criticism in the past of offering cuts up front as part of an “adult in the room” strategy, this has arguably worked to some degree. During the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling fights, Republicans ended up caving specifically because it became overwhelmingly obvious to the public that they were the intransigent party standing in the way of compromise — the political risk of taking the blame for taxes going up on everyone, and then default, simply became too great.

The only problem with that is this, which Greg posted yesterday:


As a liberal, it's hard for me to see how that translates into a big Republican cave. The Republicans always seek bigger cuts and then John Boehner clutches his pearls for a little while and then they "settle" for less.  (Simply allowing tax rates for those making half a million dollars a year to revert to their 2001 levels is not exactly a major sacrifice.) The Democrats then take a huge victory lap for "forcing" them to cave. The Republicans seem to understand that impressing the Villagers is of less importance than achieving their most cherished policy goals, which is to shrink government. (After all, it's only a matter of time before they are accorded "grown-up" status again, for whatever that's worth.) The results illustrated above show exactly who's winning and it sure isn't anyone who cares about the health of the economy or the ability of government to deliver needed services to its people.

After this happens over and over again, one can only conclude that cutting trillions in government spending in an epic recession is the preferred policy of both parties. And it's a terrible policy. It's also a long term catastrophic error on the part of the Democrats to enthusiastically take credit for deficit reduction at exactly the wrong moment. They are cementing conservative economic ideology at their own expense. It's political malpractice. When those chickens come home to roost it won't be the liberals who are to blame (although I'm sure they'll be blamed anyway.) It will be the "grown-ups" who fully bought in (or were too weak to resist) the economic ideology that  destroyed the middle class.


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