The deal that was struck is dramatically — shockingly — better from the Democrats’ point of view.
The deal eliminates the leverage created by another imminent default until after the next election, where it will be exercised by new and possibly differently constituted players.
And today’s Republicans have not gotten much for giving up their leverage; certainly nothing close to what they asked for in Cut, Cap and Balance. The current deal cuts social programs rather than raising revenue, to be sure. But while the cuts are significant and will hurt, they leave the basic core of the American social safety net intact. And the bipartisan committee charged with negotiating a grander bargain in the fall is free to revisit the possibility of new taxes. In addition, it will take up the orthodox anti-tax position (represented by the balanced budget amendment) in a manner guaranteed to be purely symbolic.
Perhaps most important, this week’s debt deal does nothing to change the fact that the George W. Bush tax cuts will expire at the end of 2012. Obama and congressional Democrats will be able to bargain for increased taxes on the wealthy, in a situation in which they have much less to lose.