Sunday, 31 July 2011

Where are the Democrats? (Or, “WTF?”)

[This piece has been Updated Twice]

So it looks like debt ceiling deal will be $3 trillion in spending cuts, but no new taxes or revenues. Not even the loop holes for stuff government shouldn’t be subsidising are going to be closed, it seems. What?! I thought President Obama was a Democrat! And what are the Senate Democrats doing? Why are they caving totally to Tea Party/Republican demands? Why are they presenting a deal that matches the Republican position of no new taxes or we kill the country? After Obama and Boehner negotiated a balanced deal, and they were mostly on the same page, only to be skewered by the idiots, and lots of back-and-forth B.S. from both sides, we’re actually at a point where the Republicans will be getting more than they originally asked for? And for what? Acting like petulant kindergarteners? Seriously?!

Or, in a more measured manner, as Michael Tomasky put it: “it appears Obama is meeting the Republicans – on their terms.”

Tomasky continues:

“When Mitch McConnell said—around 4 Saturday afternoon—that he had been talking with Obama and Joe Biden and the country will not default, he was really saying: We’ve cut the deal. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi were at the White House at the time, with Obama. Were the three of them—or the four of them, with Biden—figuring out their next counter-move, as one might expect? Maybe. But it appears more likely that Reid and Pelosi were getting their marching orders and being read the terms of surrender.”

Obviously, it’s still too early to know all of the details of the bill, but early mutterings do not sound good at all for anyone who thought a more balanced approach is sensible, fair, and proper. Felicia Sonmez of Washington Post has reported how McConnell described the deal being negotiated:

“On Sunday morning, McConnell sketched the outlines of a $3 trillion, debt framework that would pair an immediate increase in the federal borrowing limit with immediate spending cuts. The proposal would also include caps on spending over the next decade and would mandate that a bipartisan committee of lawmakers recommend further cuts and potential changes to entitlement programs by the fall, with a ‘trigger’ mechanism to ensure that action is taken to reduce the debt if the committee reaches a stalemate.”

Yes, spending cuts are needed. But so are revenue increases – and closing loopholes would be the best and easiest way to keep things a little more even. I know it’s become a trope to mention the subsidies for corporate and private jets, but these should be targets of the Tea Party as well, but they’re not. Yet more evidence that these guys really don’t know what they’re doing or talking about.

Dick Durbin, according to Sonmez (in the same article), has said that leaving talk of taxes and revenues out of the deal is “bad policy”, that “Keeping revenues off the table I think is a serious mistake.” Meanwhile, Durbin’s Republican counterpart has been equally candid about his opinion of the deal: “Republican principles will be significantly advanced by the proposed agreement.” Let’s just not discuss whether or not ‘Republican principles’, in this instance, are sensible, reasonable, or in the nation’s interest.

Major Garrett of The Atlantic has posted this run down of the deal (more recent than Sonmez’s article:

  • $2.8 trillion in deficit reduction with $1 trillion locked in through discretionary spending caps over 10 years and the remainder determined by a so-called “Super Committee”
  • The Super Committee must report precise deficit-reduction proposals by Thanksgiving
  • The Super Committee would have to propose $1.8 trillion in spending cuts to achieve that amount of deficit reduction over 10 years
  • If the Super Committee fails, Congress must send a balanced-budget amendment to the states for ratification. If that doesn’t happen, across-the-board spending cuts would go into effect and could touch Medicare and defense spending.
  • No net new tax revenue would be part of the special committee’s deliberations.

One very simple thing they should do? Cut Congress and Senate salaries. That’ll save some money. Both sides have shown they are mostly incapable of doing anything until the last minute, and only after wasting an awful lot of everybody’s time and money.

Mostly, this is a huge disappointment for anyone who voted for President Obama (or, in my case, would have voted for him if I’d been allowed to). He’s caved. Again. Tomasky again:

“Both parties engaged in the usual posturing but had always agreed that a simple majority could raise the ceiling. Until Saturday. This tells us just what extremists these Republicans are. But McConnell knew he could get away with it, because few Americans even know what cloture is—and, more important, because he predicted, apparently accurately, that this president would roll over. And so the GOP will have won, and won big. Obama can call this victory if he likes, and insofar as default will be avoided, sure. But if he thinks this is what his voters sent him to the White House to do, he needs a serious reality check.”

I bet President Obama extends all the Bush Tax Cuts next year, too... I don’t understand why Democrats are so willing to cave to Republicans all the damned time. Once again, they exhibit a total lack of spine or courage of their convictions.

I’m sure I’ll complain after the final deal is announced, too. I’ll make sure I include some more details, though. A disappointing month for American politicians. Why is it that Alec Baldwin, and not an academic or politician, has written the best article about this?

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