Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ballance's last stand

Dan Balz writes what I'm sure he considers a very hard hitting column about what's wrong with the debt ceiling negotiations. He concludes the problem is the House Republican Caucus


But it’s clear that House Republicans are the principal obstacle to any grand bargain that includes substantial new revenue. Their rigid opposition runs contrary to public opinion,


But the impressive thing is that even when assigning blame, Balz feels the need to assert a false equivalence. Actually I'm not sure he felt anything. I think it is likely that he does this without thinking or imagining that there is an alternative. He wrote

Republican opposition to tax increases is an article of faith for the party, but many GOP lawmakers, particularly the freshman who came in with the support of the tea party movement, are more rigidly opposed than ever. Similarly, many Democrats, who have won elections attacking Republicans over Social Security and Medicare, remain strongly opposed to cuts in those programs.


He could also have written

Republican opposition to tax increases is an article of faith for the party, but many GOP lawmakers, particularly the freshman who came in with the support of the tea party movement, are more rigidly opposed than ever. Similarly, many Republicans, who have won elections attacking Democrats over Medicare, remain strongly determined to cut that program and eliminate it if possible.

The last campaign wasn't so long ago. Balz knows perfectly well that Republicans claimed that the PPACA cut Medicare benefits (when they didn't suggest that it established death panels). He also knows that the public disagrees with the Republicans on taxes and he must know that the public strongly agrees with the Democrats on Medicare and Social Security. What is the justification for the word "similarly." Why did Balz type that word ? It is not needed. It is not true. Did he even consider the possibility of not claiming that two things which are fundamentally different are similar ?

Notice one asymmetry. Republicans have "faith" Democrats' support for Medicare and Social Security must be based on political calculation. The possibility that people actually sincerely think that cutting those programs is a bad idea is not conceivable even though the vast majority of people in the USA sincerely think that cutting those programs is a bad idea.



Also

Negotiators have just days to show progress, with the onus on the speaker to show that he can cajole his colleagues into accepting a plan that can pass the Senate.


At only two syllables "onus" un-punches above its weight. Is Balz saying that Boehner has that responsibility -- that if he doesn't have the cojones to cajole he is in the wrong -- or is he going horse race and saying that if his caucus causes default he will suffer politically ? Does Balz even distinguish his preferences from those of the voters in his own mind.

He is enthusiastic about proposed cuts to Medicare, Social Security and Medicare. On those issues he doesn't mention public opinion, which doesn't count since the public don't agree with the very serious people.


I honestly suspect that we are watching Obama play 11-dimensional chess, which involved the sacrifice of "principle" (a knight of course) and "telling the truth about what he thinks of spending cuts when in a liquidity trap" (have to call it a pawn although the truth about economics isn't even a pawn in his game). He has managed to get the Republicans to do the one thing which villagers won't forgive -- turn down a chance to cut Medicare and Social Security. The Republicans have betrayed the entitleds' anti entitlement crusade. This will not be forgotten.

On the other hand, the public will have to forgive Obama's spinelessness as the alternative is worse.

In the country of the blind, the one eyed 11-dimensional chess player is re-elected.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, I think you're being too pessimistic. Sure, the Republicans turned down a chance to accept the Democrats' offer to cut Social Security and Medicare, but there's still plenty of time for them to reconsider. I'm putting my money on Obama's ability to wrench the country's head from out the lion's mouth of default and plunge it into the gas-oven of depression-austerity. Having a Democrat cut the social programs will not only please the Very Serious People, it will also please most of the Republicans. It won't please the apocalyptic Tea-Party crowd, but that in itself will satisfy the Very Serious People that it is a Wise and Serious Response. Any catastrophic consequences will naturally be due to the Democrats' and Obama's slowness to accept the Very Serious Wisdom of doing what the Republicans demand.