Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fiscal cliffing with Obama-style negotiating

House Speaker John Boehner seems to be balking at Social Security opponent Obama's latest offer to solve the non-crisis of the "fiscal cliff" that includes reductions to Social Security benefits and $400 billion of unspecified savings in Medicare. (Nancy Cook, Fiscal Cliff Talks Devolve Into Day of Dueling Press Conferences National Journal 12/19/2012)

Once again, Obama looks to be back in President Pushover mode in negotiating with the Republicans.

David Dayen takes note of it in Obama Proud of His Fiscal Slope Offer, For Some Reason FDL News 12/19/2012:

Anyway, the President had to defend his latest offer, with its spending cuts commensurate in level with the sequester, benefit cuts to Social Security, concession on marginal tax rate increases by moving the dividing line to $400,000 a year and allowing open the opportunity for debt limit hostage taking down the road. And he basically bragged about the wise centrism of his offer. He called it the “largest piece of deficit reduction we've seen in the last 20 years” and said it would resolve out deficit and debt issues for the next 10 years. Because that’s how things work, right? Deficit scolds just go into hibernation once some mythical level of stabilization gets reached.

Obama basically ignored the implications of the benefit cut in Social Security, and ignored the regressive tax increase for everyone associated with the move to chained CPI. He mainly expressed puzzlement that Republicans haven’t taken his deal, since he’s gone "more than halfway" in their direction. Um, that answers his own question. If by doing next to nothing, they can watch the President give up on things he long demanded – he said he would veto anything that extended the Bush-era tax rates above $250,000, and that he would not "play the game" anymore on the debt limit – then why wouldn't they just keep sitting still and letting the President come to them?
Markos Moulitsas also is struck by it, as he describes in It wasn't Obama's negotiating style that won him reelection. It almost cost him Daily Kos 12/18/2012.

Dayen mentions that Obama has already neutralized his post-election vow not to negotiate over the debt limit. : "The President says he won’t negotiate on the debt limit. By offering up this debt deal now, he’s actually in the process of doing that. And he’s basically setting up a debt default in 2014, or a major conflagration anyway, by not shutting this down immediately."

Markos makes a similar observation:

Obama isn't doing himself any favors by drawing lines in the sand and then inevitably capitulating. Republicans have learned that there isn't a negotiating stance that Obama won't compromise. That doesn't lend itself to smart negotiations. Rather, it creates unbalanced ones, as Republicans simply wait for Obama to cave on his demands. They've learned that for Obama, making a deal is more important than what's in the deal.
One of the bizarre aspects of these negotiations is that the Democratic "concession" most prized by the Republicans - cuts in benefits to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - is one that the Republicans know Obama wants to give up. Four years ago, we could still reasonably hope that Obama's talk about controlling deficits as political posturing to make his proposed stimulus package more acceptable to skeptics. But since he not only offered benefit cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in 2011 but just since his re-election has again offered up cuts in benefits to Social Security and Medicare, his messaging on the subject four years ago looks like the expression of a real, hardcore goal of his.

Digby just reposted one of her early analyses of the Grand Bargain to cut benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Fiscal Madness 01/11/2009. Jane Hamsher, who has also been following the evolution of the Great Sellout to cut benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, does a recap of Obamas history on the subject, Can We Please Stop Pretending Obama is "Capitulating" on Social Security? FDL Action 12/19/2012.

This doesn't invalidate the criticisms of his negotiating strategy, though. In fact, his negotiating is awful because he's trying to achieve the impossible. He wants to achieve an "end of ideology" state by agreeing to cut benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and doing it in a way that Democrats will accept and even like. Only by achieving such an "end of ideology" can he be the great conciliator who makes no-red-America/no-blue-America a reality.

But the Republicans aren't interested in an end of ideology, they're interested in the victory of theirs. And that includes gutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. But to make Democratic acceptance of that even remotely plausible, it has to be generally seen as the reluctant capitulation by Democrats to a Republican demand. And to do that, Obama would have to negotiate on the basis of Democratic priorities until the Republicans gave him a clear offer on rolling back Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid on which he could agree to a less drastic version which he could then sell as stopping the Republicans from doing more harm.

This would also require the Republicans to be willing to make such an offer and own them as their demand. But they aren't willing to do so. They falsely charged Obama in 2010 and again in 2012 with cutting back Medicare on the basis of projected savings that did not involve benefit cuts.

In another post on how Medicare Obama claims he's already gone "at least halfway" toward the Republican positions, Markos writes (Obama admits he's already conceded more than warranted 12/19/2012):

Sheesh, why didn't Obama say something like, "I made a more than fair deal. The GOP rejected it. So now I'm pulling the offer off the table and waiting to see what the GOP has to offer. Clock's ticking!" Instead, the GOP will bank the concessions he's already made, then demand more. Rinse. Lather. Repeat.
The sad part, given Obama opposition to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, is that stalemate and no deal is one of the best options for the country.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

No comments: