Friday, July 29, 2011

Open Thread & News Round-Up: Debt Negotiations

Here's the latest...

Peter Daou sums up where we are: "So, two parties are bickering over opposing plans to sink the country into recession and if they can't pick one, they'll torpedo the economy." Pretty much.

As I mentioned last night, "House Republican leaders have postponed indefinitely a vote on Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) debt limit bill after they could not persuade enough Republicans to support the measure."

You know we're really in trouble when Joe Klein is a voice of reason: "Let us not put too fine a point on it: [Any] House vote on Speaker John Boehner's debt ceiling proposal is a joke. If it passes the House, Harry Reid has said it is dead on arrival in the Senate. If it somehow passes the Senate, which it won't, President Obama will veto it. It is, therefore, a symbolic act that is wasting precious time. It follows last week's Republican theatrics, the passage of the Cut and Demolish Act (or whatever they called it), which also was a waste of time. These are the actions of a party that has completely lost track of reality–and of a leader, John Boehner, who has lost the support of his party."

By the way, that lack of support is owing, in part, to the fact that there are members of the Republican caucus who "are angry that it includes $17 billion in supplemental spending for Pell Grants, which some compare to welfare."

In the sense that Pell Grants are money provided by the government to people who need it, they are like welfare, which I don't consider a dirty word. Of course, that is not an opinion members of the Republican caucus share with me. Which is basically why we're in the situation we're in—a fundamental disagreement about the role of government and "entitlements," which Republicans spit out like a curse. Personally, I don't find anything controversial about the idea that old, ill, injured, disabled, widowed, orphaned, poor, unemployed, or otherwise needful people are entitled to assistance from the rest of their society.

Anyway, speaking of the Republicans being jackasses...

James Fallows in The Atlantic: Five Reasons the House GOP Is to Blame. (And he doesn't let the Democrats off the hook, either.)

Over at the New York Times, Paul Krugman takes a further look at the disaster that is centrism:
The cult of balance has played an important role in bringing us to the edge of disaster. ... Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about. As you may know, President Obama initially tried to strike a "Grand Bargain" with Republicans over taxes and spending. To do so, he not only chose not to make an issue of G.O.P. extortion, he offered extraordinary concessions on Democratic priorities: an increase in the age of Medicare eligibility, sharp spending cuts and only small revenue increases. As The Times's Nate Silver pointed out, Mr. Obama effectively staked out a position that was not only far to the right of the average voter's preferences, it was if anything a bit to the right of the average Republican voter's preferences.

But Republicans rejected the deal. So what was the headline on an Associated Press analysis of that breakdown in negotiations? "Obama, Republicans Trapped by Inflexible Rhetoric." A Democratic president who bends over backward to accommodate the other side — or, if you prefer, who leans so far to the right that he's in danger of falling over — is treated as being just the same as his utterly intransigent opponents. Balance!

...Many pundits view taking a position in the middle of the political spectrum as a virtue in itself. I don't. Wisdom doesn't necessarily reside in the middle of the road, and I want leaders who do the right thing, not the centrist thing.
For further general reading, there's a lot of good stuff in the Guardian's Economics section.