The budget/deficit ceiling talks didn’t go well this past weekend, and now everyone is posturing and trying to put their side in the best possible light and blame the other side for being stubborn or beholden to their base or just playing politics. It’s not surprising a lot of voters aren’t paying attention to it because it reminds people of listening to children squabble in the back seat of the car on a long road trip.
That said, here’s where we stand. President Obama offered the Big Deal, which was $4 trillion in cuts and some tax increases. For a brief moment it looked like Speaker John Boehner might go for it, but then he found out that if there was a deal that included tax increases in any form, he couldn’t get his base to go along with it, so he backed away from the deal and is now supporting a “smaller” deal of $2 trillion which will probably not include any tax increases but might include some kind of “revenue enhancements” by closing some loopholes and reducing some credits. That amounts to a tax increase, but by calling them “enhancements” and using words of more than two syllables, the GOP thinks they can slide it by the Tea Party because they don’t know how to Google “enhancement.” As of this morning, though, there is no deal, and President Obama has said there has to be one in place in ten days in order to get it written and passed before the deadline of August 2.
Depending on who you listen to, the politics of this theatre is playing out very well for the president because he’s painted the Republicans into the extremist corner: “We offered them everything we could come up with and they still said no;” or the president is being suckered in by the GOP to give away the store by the wily GOP because even though Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) went on Fox and said that the debt ceiling will be raised no matter what, the Republicans can still bully the president into cutting more taxes, privatizing Medicare, passing the balanced budget amendment, repealing the healthcare bill, and taking back his proclamation that vegetables are good for you.
I wouldn’t put it past the Republicans to play this one down to the wire even if they plan to pass the debt ceiling increase no matter what deal they strike. There is a strong contingent in the party that is stridently opposed to giving President Obama any kind of concession regardless of whether it is fiscally responsible or not. They view him as the Kenyan Soshulist Secret Muslim and, in the pithy words of Lyndon Johnson, wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire. Then there’s the more “moderate” wing of the party. They’re the ones who won’t give an inch on taxes because they’re either in the grip of Grover Norquist or they have too much invested in promising more tax cuts for the rich and will lose their financial support in the next election. There are some Republicans who are willing to make a compromise deal on tax increases and judicious cuts in the budget, but they were all run out of office back during the Bush administration.
So that’s where we are now. Anyone who thinks we’re going to get through this without a great deal of political posturing mixed in with some really surrealistic financial projections or that Congress will pass a clean debt limit increase that doesn’t have the 2012 election written all over it might as well start cleaning out the barn to make room for the unicorns.