fresh voices from the front lines of change







This morning's hangover is worse than expected so bear with me. The good news is that we can finally stop talking about the debt ceiling and start talking about jobs. There's nothing we can do about that now, but maybe something will magically happen if we just say the word a lot.

The deal is the deal, not particularly surprising to me, preordained from the moment it was decided to negotiate around the debt ceiling.(Dday has the rundown on the deal.) It's been my opinion from the beginning that the White House was aware that the Republicans were going to "leverage" the debt ceiling so a better negotiating stance would have been to hold fast to a clean vote, working the public PR angle hard the whole way (and wielding his other options.) At the very least I think the numbers would have been less onerous in the end if they made a last minute deal than the one they got after validating all these big numbers and putting "entitlements" on the table in earlier negotiations. The one thing you know about the Republicans is that if you give them an inch they'll take a mile.

And who knows? Perhaps a sustained campaign to paint the GOP as obstructionist and dangerous to the economy would have rallied the American people. Certainly, one might have expected somebody somewhere to have made the case that jobs are the priority and these cuts would make thing even worse. But I suspect the decision was made early on on both sides to use the threat of Armageddon as a whipped to get the votes for the Grand Bargain, which makes this comment from last December look a bit different than it did at the time:

Q Mr. President, thank you. How do these negotiations affect negotiations or talks with Republicans about raising the debt limit? Because it would seem that they have a significant amount of leverage over the White House now, going in. Was there ever any attempt by the White House to include raising the debt limit as a part of this package?

THE PRESIDENT: When you say it would seem they’ll have a significant amount of leverage over the White House, what do you mean?

Q Just in the sense that they’ll say essentially we’re not going to raise the — we’re not going to agree to it unless the White House is able to or willing to agree to significant spending cuts across the board that probably go deeper and further than what you’re willing to do. I mean, what leverage would you have –

THE PRESIDENT: Look, here’s my expectation — and I’ll take John Boehner at his word — that nobody, Democrat or Republican, is willing to see the full faith and credit of the United States government collapse, that that would not be a good thing to happen. And so I think that there will be significant discussions about the debt limit vote. That’s something that nobody ever likes to vote on. But once John Boehner is sworn in as Speaker, then he’s going to have responsibilities to govern. You can’t just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower.

And so my expectation is, is that we will have tough negotiations around the budget, but that ultimately we can arrive at a position that is keeping the government open, keeping Social Security checks going out, keeping veterans services being provided, but at the same time is prudent when it comes to taxpayer dollars.

Meanwhile, somebody must take the blame for this debacle and I'm guessing it's going to be the usual suspects.

Jared Bernstein:

This was an ugly debate where reckless ideologues got the better of the grown-ups in the room who were not willing to risk the economy to protect the government.

But before you go blaming the grown-ups, and I totally agree they’re terrible negotiators, understand that the grown-ups had virtually no-one behind them. Sure, there was me and Jon Cohn and Ezra and a bunch of others who tried to explain the stakes, but as usual, we were marching in front of a parade with few behind us.

If too many Americans don’t believe in or understand what government does to help them, to offset recessions, to protect their security in retirement and in hard times, to maintain the infrastructure, to provide educational opportunities and health care decent enough to offset the disadvantages so many are born with…if those functions are unknown, underfunded, and/or carried out poorly, why should they care about how much this deal or the next one cuts?

Those of us who do care about the above will not defeat those who strive to get rid of it all by becoming better tacticians. We will only find success when a majority of Americans agrees with us that government is something worth fighting for.

I would suggest that the one person who most Americans see and hear speaking on this subject -- the President of the United States -- might step up on that one but he's not much of a speaker so it's probably for the best.

Not that I think Bernstein is saying this, but I have read quite a few emails, tweets and comments this morning explaining that this is really the fault of the left and the progressive movement for failing to rally the people. (Evidently, we devote ourselves to masturbatory blogging instead of organizing the masses, so we have no one to blame but ourselves.)Had "the movement" spent the last two years doing ...something ... then Obama would have had the backing he needed to get a better deal, but because we are so ineffectual and counterproductive, he simply had no choice but to do what he did. Evidently, the presidency is a powerless office but bloggers can change the world.

There is some merit to the idea that the progressive movement derailed itself for a time in the winter of 2007/2008, but this latest swipe leaves me wondering just how much the Democratic party establishment would like to have a Tea Party of their very own?

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