Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ever So Accomodating

CBS' Face the Nation (transcript here) played a clip of President Obama, as ever, being serious, mature, even-handed, and bipartisan, explaining

John Boehner and I agree that we got to reduce our deficit. Second of all, we both agree that we’ve got to raise the debt ceiling....

And-- and what I’ve said is let’s not have a-- the kind of linkage where we’re
even talking about not raising the debt ceiling. That’s going to get done. But let’s get serious about deficit reduction. And I’ve put a-- a plan on the table that takes four trillion dollars out of our-- out of our deficit and debt. The question is, are we going to have some compromise? Is it going to be balanced? Are we going to make sure that no single group, not seniors, not poor folks, not any single group is carrying the entire burden? Let’s make sure that the burden is shared for making some tough choices.

Ever-ready to show his hand, Obama explained "I've put a plan on the table that takes four trillion dollars out of our deficit and debt.... let's make sure that the burden is shared for making some tough choices." Responding to Obama's statement, John Boehner delivered his answer:

Well, it makes me think that he’s really not serious about tackling the big problems that face our country.

This is the fellow Barack Obama chooses to negotiate with- a guy who stakes out a position on the far right of the far right party while the President's position is the middle ground (actually, center-right) and, presumably, where he hopes to end up.

Boehner's answer to it all? Cut the elderly, cut the disabled, cut the poor:

Medicare, Medicaid, all-- everything should be on the table except raising taxes because raising taxes will hurt our economy and hurt our ability to create jobs in our country.

The deficit was caused primarily by the recession begun in the previous, Republican Administration and by the tax cuts that President was addicted to. John Boehner voted for those tax cuts- and for the Medicare prescription drug act, effectively diverting tax dollars to pharmaceutical companies; supported the two wars which helped drain the Treasury; and negotiated the tax cut of last autumn which will add some $800 billion to the debt. And he blames..... Barack Obama?

Five days earlier, Boehner, asked on the Today show whether "raising taxes is a nonstarter,” replied “It’s off the table. Everything else is on the table.”

President Obama won't take any of it personally, though- he takes no criticism, except from the left, personally. True to form, according to The Washington Post

President Obama urged members of his party Wednesday to avoid declaring absolute positions in the debate on increasing the federal debt ceiling, a day after House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said that tax increases were “off the table” as part of any agreement.

In an hour-long session with Senate Democrats at the White House, Obama told his former colleagues not to “draw a line in the sand” in negotiations, said Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.). Showing an unwillingness to compromise, Obama said, would not only limit the ability to reach a deal with Republicans but could also have a negative impact on financial markets.

Obama’s view diverges not only from that of Boehner and many congressional Republicans — who say an increase in the nation’s debt limit must be accompanied by large spending cuts — but also from that of some Democratic activists.

What makes the President's attitude even more puzzling- or, in an odd way, less- is that

The White House meeting came as several dozen business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Financial Services Forum, which represents the nation’s largest banks, released a letter that urged lawmakers to take “timely” steps to increase the debt limit but did not call for immediate spending reductions as well.

This is hard to comprehend, even for Mr. Hope And Change. Boehner says "sure, we're for raising the debt ceiling but there must be deep spending cuts, including to two of the three Democratic signature issues- Medicare and Medicaid- and no tax increases." His party's corporate base is telling the GOP "just raise the ceiling." And the President is telling his party "clam up and accept some of the GOP's demands." Maybe Obama is comforted by the Speaker's assurance that

It’s going to have to come to that. I’ve talked to the President all year privately about the fact that we were not going to increase the debt limit without serious changes. I mean, this conversation’s been going on for quite a while. I’ve offered the President, I said Mister President, come on, you and I, let’s lock arms and we’ll jump out of the boat together.

If they "jump out of the boat together," Boehner will have satisfied both the faux populist (sometimes referred to as the "Tea Party") and the corporate bases of his party while Obama will have satisfied his need to be the great deal-maker. However, when Grover Norquist and Karl Rove get on this, it'll be Democrats crushing Medicare and sending old people out to pasture. Of course, while the President is credited by the traditional media for being open-minded and centrist enough to "compromise," it would be congressional Democrats who get pounded for destroying the social safety net. But then, that's the way they have it mapped out at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

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