Obama’s Bland Bargaining

Obama NopeThis morning, Greg Sargent wrote, Obama Urges Republicans to Take Yes for an Answer. In it, he points back to Ezra Klein’s meeting with an unnamed legislator who apparently didn’t know what Obama had offered in terms of a Sequester deal. He notes that Obama is reaching out to Senate Republicans: “Obama will tell all these Senators that he’s offering them what they want, i.e., serious cuts in retirement programs, in exchange for less in new revenues, and that this is actually a very good deal for them.” Can Obama be this naive?

As the whole Ezra Klein meeting and then follow up shows: Republicans may not know what Obama is offering, but once they know they will just have different reasons for not dealing. What’s more, the worst thing that could happen now is a deal. Obama has already offered more than a 2-to-1 ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases. If negotiations start in earnest, we all know what that means: a final deal that is almost entirely spending cuts; Obama will get some small revenue increase and claim victory because he got the Republicans to go back on their no new revenue pledge. Wow!

The Sequester is very bad. First, it will greatly slow down the economy. Second, almost no one will notice. So at this point, since any deal is going to be mostly spending cuts anyway, I’m for just leaving it alone. At least this way we get some cuts to the military. Obama is now in his traditional “panic negotiation” mode where he will agree to anything. And he is eager (as Clinton was before him) to screw our elderly citizens with Chained-CPI. Watch out for any deal coming down the pike.

Obama would like to see himself as Lincoln. The problem is that Lincoln really did believe in something. Sure, he was more or less a moderate in his day. But he was not a thread-the-needle kind of guy. If Obama had been president during the Civil War, he would have sued for peace after the first defeat, the Confederacy would be its own country today, and only now would they be abolishing slavery. I stand by what I said yesterday, but even more broadly: history will not look back all the fondly on Obama’s presidency. Deal-making is not an end in itself. The deal has to be worth making. In Obama’s case, it very often isn’t worth making. But not to worry: Obama’s post-partisan! And he has hope that when things change we won’t all be totally fucked.

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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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