Debt Deal Winners

I am still not certain who has come out ahead in the debt ceiling deal. Michael Barone seems to think that the Republicans go the better of the deal. In his latest column, courtesy of Human Events, he explains that the Republicans win when the debate is over spending cuts.

First of all, the liberals seem to be a whole lot angrier over the deal.

Democrats seem especially unhappy. They could have avoided the fight in the first place by raising the debt ceiling in the lame duck session in December, when they had large majorities in both houses of Congress.

But they decided not to. Reid’s comments then suggested that he expected the issue to split the House Republicans, pitting the leadership against the 87 Tea Party-sympathizing freshmen. The leaders would have to agree to a tax increase in order to get a deal, with a party schism like the one that followed George H.W. Bush’s agreement to a tax increase in 1990.

That didn’t happen. Instead Reid abandoned his demand for a tax increase. The reason, I think, is that he hasn’t had a 50-vote majority for a tax increase in the Senate, just as Senate Democrats haven’t been able to pass a budget.

All of which left Barack Obama looking somewhat ridiculous when he called for more taxes in his televised speech Monday night. When you’re trying to show you’re leading and your followers have already gone off in another direction, you tend to look like something other than a leader.

Some Democrats, in frustration, have said House Republicans are acting “almost like a dictatorship” or are using “terrorist tactics.” But in opposing tax increases, House Republicans are just being true to the voters who gave them in November 2010 a larger majority than they have won since 1946.

Other Democrats have taken to blaming Obama. Robert Reich, labor secretary in the Clinton administration, decries an empty bully pulpit. Paul Krugman​, the trade economist who writes partisan vitriol for The New York Times, talks about a centrist copout.

That’s what they get for being too clever. Here is the point of the column.

All of which weakens Boehner’s bargaining position and may mean a final bill less tilted to Republican demands. But, as many Democrats note, the battle is being fought over how much spending to cut, which means that Republicans are winning. The question is just how much.

Democrats went into this fight with a precedent in mind, the budget fight between President Clinton​ and Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995-96. The conventional wisdom is that Clinton won that fight and Republicans lost.

That’s not quite right: After shifting to noticeably more moderate policies, Clinton was re-elected in 1996, but Republicans lost few House seats and held onto their congressional majorities at the same time.

The difference this time is that Obama has not shifted policies noticeably, but instead has seemed to position himself as a complainer on the sidelines, asking voters to call their congressman. He has presented no specific plan of his own. His chief of staff reports that he hasn’t spoken at all to Boehner lately.

One major difference which Barone neglects to mention is the simply fact that with the loss of their monopoly over the news media, the Liberals are no longer able to completely control the narrative. Back in Clinton’s day, before Fox, the Internet, and when Conservative talk radio was just beginning to get big, Clinton enjoyed the advantage of being able to fight almost entirely on his own terms. If the media slammed the Republicans for being extreme and stubborn, there was really only Rush Limbaugh to tell the other side. Now, of course, Obama does not have that advantage and the fight is more equal.

I think that on the whole the republicans did get the better of the deal. It’s no where near enough to avert eventual catastrophe but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

The Debt Ceiling

I haven’t been following the debate very closely, just on and off. Right now I am not sure what is happening. I see a report through Drudge that they are very close to a deal. But, as I read through the story, I don’t see any details. Evidently there will be no new taxes but I don’t see what they might cut.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top Republican in the Senate said Congress and the White House were very close to a deal on raising the limit on U.S. borrowing that would avert an unprecedented default on America’s debt, ending one of the nastiest partisan fights in recent memory.

Senate Majority Leader Mitchell McConnell said he was nearing a recommendation of the tentative agreement to Republicans in the upper chamber. It would, he said, likely extend U.S. borrowing authority, which expires on Tuesday, beyond the 2012 presidential and congressional elections, a fundamental demand of President Barack Obama.

At the same time, the agreement would include none of the tax increases Obama has sought and Republicans had steadfastly rejected. It also includes, he said, the requirement that both houses of Congress vote on a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. That outcome of that vote, however, would have no effect on raising the debt limit.

Senior White House adviser David Plouffe said that both sides are generally in agreement on an emerging package that would cut the deficit in two stages, with key details still being worked out.

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said there still was no deal and talks on many issues still needed to be settled. Although he said there was “relief” in Congress and the White House because serious negotiations were now making headway.

The deal, negotiated late Saturday night, would raise the nation’s debt limit would rise in two steps by about $2.4 trillion and spending would be cut by a slightly larger amount, according to officials close to the talks. The first stage — about $1 trillion — would take place immediately and the second later in the year.

The officials who described the talks did so on condition of anonymity, citing their sensitive nature.

Obama is seeking legislation to raise the government’s $14.3 trillion debt limit by enough to tide the Treasury over until after the 2012 elections. He has threatened to veto any legislation that would allow a recurrence of the current crisis next year but has agreed to Republican demands that deficits be cut — without tax increases — in exchange for additional U.S. borrowing authority.

The alarming thing is that this isn’t the real crisis. The real crisis is that we are 14.3 trillion dollars in debt and as far as I can tell this deal only gets us further in the hole. We have got to start balancing our budget right now. We have got to come up with a credible plan to begin to pay down that literally astronomical debt. Frankly I think it might have been better to not raise the debt ceiling and deal with a default right now. If things go on as they have been, we will have a default in our lifetime, probably sooner rather than later.