We need a good debt-ceiling scare now and then

In this spending-cut tug of war, it is of paramount importance to frame your demands in a way that the public sees as reasonable. The side that can command public opinion will prevail — the other side will ultimately cave for fear of being blamed for whatever dislocation occurs. Republicans should not be asking for, say, repeal of Obamacare as the quid pro quo for raising the debt limit. These are bridges much too far for these negotiations.

Which is why House Speaker John Boehner’s offer of a dollar-for-dollar deal — raise the debt ceiling to match corresponding spending cuts — is a thing of beauty. It is eminently logical and easy to understand. In a country with a 47 percent to 19 percent plurality opposed to raising the debt ceiling, the Boehner offer is difficult for the president to refuse.

After all, it invites Obama to choose how much to cut. For example, $500 billion buys him a $500 billion debt-limit hike — and only a short-term extension. Not wanting to go through this process again, Obama would like a $2 trillion debt-limit hike to get him past Election Day 2012. For that, he’ll have to come up with $2 trillion in spending cuts.