Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hard decisions for the GOP, again!

So both Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are making noises about putting up a fight on the debt ceiling increase. One problem--they haven't decided what to demand yet. This is so much the same as earlier this year when the GOP met several times trying to figure out their strategy, and basically ended up with a strategy vacuum that was filled by Ted Cruz's "Defund Obamacare" fiasco.

Probably the GOP will plump for the a different fiasco this time. Just maybe they'll figure that a half-baked idea is worse than nothing at all, and will instead think through their position. Do they want to push for some more spending restraint? Entitlement reform?

They better decide damn quick because it's only 2 months until the debt ceiling is reached, and they can't be unveiling their position one day or one week before the deadline. The GOP looked incredibly stupid with their changing slate of ridiculous demands just before the government shutdown, so the GOP should know not to do that again.

But the problem has always been that having demands isn't enough. You must have specific, sensible demands. If the GOP wants spending cuts, what the hell are they? Is the pain balanced, or targeted only at their political enemies? It's going to be easy for Obama and the Dems to say "no negotiations" to a half-baked list of demands, but much harder if it's a well-considered plan. This should be obvious by now, but the GOP opinion leaders (the noise makers with their legions of dittoheads) are too cloaked in the conservative thought bubble to have noticed it.

I hope that the GOP decides on a small slate of targeted spending cuts. It's doable and they can run a PR campaign on it. There are rumors that they'll try to get some entitlement reform, but they aren't close to ready for that, with the exception of chained CPI. Entitlement reform will take a lot of heavy thinking from a bipartisan commission like Simpson-Bowles or the 80's Greenspan Commission. There's no way the GOP can get any meaningful entitlement reform in the next two months, so why the hell are they pretending otherwise? Again, it makes them look like ridiculous amateurs.

Meanwhile the Dems are just sitting back, letting the GOP shoot themselves in the foot. They're taking advantage to a small degree, but not enough to look greedy and untrustworthy. Somewhere along the line, the Dem leaders learned not to overplay their rather weak hand--not because they became responsible adults, but because they got their asses handed to them in the 2010 election. They learned how quickly the country will turn on them. The leaders learned, that is, not the noisy social justice element. Those guys still think the congressional Dems can play hardball to increase social spending and taxes. Some people never learn. Isn't that the truth.

Rushing to the next tactical mistake


Dangerous said...

"Those guys still think the congressional Dems can play hardball to increase social spending and taxes."

Huh? Didn't Congress just pass a negotiated 2-year budget with overwhelming GOP support in the house, and only token resistance in the Senate? So exactly what higher taxes and increased social spending are you talking about?

Suppose the Dems said that THEY would not vote to pass a debt limit increase unless the House GOP voted for a higher minimum wage and an extension of unemployment benefits? Would the GOP capitulate to make sure the country didn't default? Of course not. The Dems would take the blame and the GOP would sit back and roast them in the 2014 election.

So the GOP can't demand anything THEY want on the notion that the Dems will give them something just to keep the country solvent. Since the Dems just want a clean debt limit increase to pay bills Congress already authorized -- including more deficit spending, to avoid higher taxes as the GOP demanded now -- any GOP demands instantly come with the blame and they get crushed in 2014.

So I suspect this is noise to temporarily quiet the crazy Right who don't think default is bad, that the country won't default, and that any bad consequences will be blame on the left for the debt anyway.

If the GOP wants something, they now have to give something in return, as it should be in negotiations. Taking the debt limit hostage is political suicide, and resulted in the GOP's complete loss of leverage in Congress and approval ratings that will likely see lots of them tossed out of Congress in 2014. They will take some Dems with them, but not as many.

ModeratePoli said...

@dangerous, I tried to be clear that the Dems in Congress have learned a lesson about not pushing too hard, but the base ("the social justice element") hasn't. Of course my own senator is encouraging them. I think I owe her a disapproving email.

I worry indeed that if the Dems got the House, Senate, and presidency what they would do. Same if the GOP got the triple crown. Don't you worry about that?

As for your statement that "taking the debt limit hostage is political suicide," I partially disagree. It can be used one of the few leverage points that still exist, but only to wring FAIR concessions. This was done in a reasonable way in 2011, and in an unreasonable way this fall.

This is one of the big insights I've gained--that leverage allows you to wrest reasonable concessions, but not the unreasonable ones. Maybe you have to be outside the bubble to be able to see this and to distinguish reasonable from unreasonable.