While it remains a bit premature to begin crowing over correct predictions, as of last night we have what appears to be the framework of a debt deal. (For those who missed it, Allahpundit had a summary of the details along with John Boehner’s Powerpoint presentation sketching it out fairly well.) Of course, as was pointed out during the more heated portions of the end game, nothing is agreed upon until everything is agreed upon. The rank and file on each side will still have to swallow this pill, and some folks – particularly on the left – aren’t exactly jumping for joy.
And with good reason.
So do we have any winners and losers yet? We can break that question down into two parts: the political ramifications and the real or imagined effects on policy. In the political camp, while there will still be some grousing from the most strident voices, it’s fairly easy to see who won. One need look no further than the progressive foot stomping of Greg Sargent at the Washington Post.
Anything can happen, but it apppears the GOP is on the verge of pulling off a political victory that may be unprecedented in American history. Republicans may succeed in using the threat of a potential outcome that they themselves acknowledged would lead to national catastrophe as leverage to extract enormous concessions from Democrats, without giving up anything of any significance in return.
Chris Cillizza goes a bit further, providing a list of winners and losers. Who does he pick? Among the winners are Mitch McConnell, the Tea Party and Grover Norquist. (As an interesting side note, he also includes David Wu, who set a world record for disappearing from the front page in the middle of a sex scandal. Anthony Weiner hardest hit.)
On the “loser” side of the fence we find Congress, the Gang of Six and Liberals. His one very strange pick, though, is to list President Obama with the winners. To a very limited extent I suppose I can see how Chris feels that Obama needed to “prove that he was capable of making the government work.” And the president will surely try to take credit for being at the helm when the opposing factions finally came to an agreement. But even though the ship may now be brought into the harbor, as far as liberals are concerned, Obama let all of the cargo wash over the side during the storm, so I don’t know how much that buys him. The one and only thing Obama got from his initial list of demands was a deal to see him past the next election. (And with the committee still to be formed, it’s not entirely clear that he even gets that.)
Probably the surest sign that conservatives came out of this in good shape is if the New York Times editorial board is upset about it. And boy howdy… are they upset!
There is little to like about the tentative agreement between Congressional leaders and the White House except that it happened at all. The deal would avert a catastrophic government default, immediately and probably through the end of 2012. The rest of it is a nearly complete capitulation to the hostage-taking demands of Republican extremists. It will hurt programs for the middle class and poor, and hinder an economic recovery…
President Obama could have been more adamant in dealing with Republicans, perhaps threatening to use constitutional powers to ignore the debt ceiling if Congress abrogated its responsibility to raise it. But this episode demonstrates the effectiveness of extortion. Reasonable people are forced to give in to those willing to endanger the national interest.
Some are arguing that the potential “trigger” of deep cuts to defense spending is some sort of a “win” for the Democrats, but I’m afraid I don’t see it that way. First of all, with six Republicans on the super commission charged with finding the rest of the cuts by Turkey Day, it’s unlikely that the triggers will come to pass. And even if they did, if the only “victory” a Democrat can claim is being happy over slashing military spending in the middle of two wars and a Time – Limited – Scope – Limited – Kinetic – Military – Action – Lasting – Days – Not – Weeks – Or – Months then that’s a pretty hollow victory if you ask me. Besides, serious conservatives have known for some time that defense spending cuts were going to have to be part of the eventual solution to our debt problem. We just don’t need them to be abrupt and artificially forced by a deficit committee.
But was all of this a victory on the policy side? As Norquist termed it during the round of Sunday morning shows over the weekend, it was a “victory” in terms of seeing movement in the correct direction and it being done without tax hikes. (Which may still come out of the committee under the cloak of tax reform.) But the totals will fail to impress. Even if you reduce the deficit by roughly $3T over the next ten years, that means that instead of our nation debt ballooning to $26T one decade out, it will only go up to $23T. It’s hard to deny that this gaudy sounding number is actually nothing more than a few good sized drops in a still very large bucket.
What we’ve yet to achieve is a fundamental shift in our national theory on government spending and the debt. Whether that comes or not will depend not only on the outcome of a few more election cycles, but on how keenly the voters feel the effects of decades of reckless fiscal policy. And that’s the next chapter in this book.