2011 Negotiations Hurting 2012 Negotiations

Ezra KleinThis morning, Ezra Klein discussed one of the real problems with the budget negotiations. Because Obama agreed to so many discretionary cuts in 2011, there is very little to give up now. He notes that after winning the 2010 elections, the Republicans demanded that the budget deal go entirely their way. After the 2012 election when the Republicans were trounced, they demand a “balanced” approach. Let’s be honest here: if I were them, I would do the same thing. The problem is with the Democrats who think when they are trounced, they should give up everything and when they win decisively, they should meet the loser half way. But I’ve written too much about this already today. The important issue is that Obama caving last year on the budget negotiation is hurting the budget negotiation this year.

This is what I wrote about yesterday regarding Social Security: taking a temporary unemployment benefit in exchange for Social Security cuts in perpetuity is madness. So not only do we have a very bad negotiator in Obama, but even he is hobbled by the even worse negotiator he was last year. The problem is that cuts made from the current budget baseline are far more painful than equal sized cuts last year.

Think of it in your own household budget. You could manage if all of your expendable income were cut. But after that, it gets painful: you eat less, you move into your car. The same thing holds with the federal budget.

The president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Bob Greenstein, explains Boehner’s position on this:

If you follow Boehner’s logic here, then the only deal that is acceptable would have to be a deal to the right of where Obama and Boehner were in the July 2011 negotiations—even though Obama won the subsequent election, and Boehner’s party lost.

Of course, if Obama had handled these negotiations correctly, it would have been okay. Boehner would have eventually understood that he had no leverage and that we were going to get a very lopsided deal. But even at the beginning of the negotiations, Obama was calling for a “balanced” deal. Why is it that a win for the left means a centrist deal but a win for the right means an extreme right deal? We need better politicians.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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