Friday, October 11, 2013

Snake Oil Returns

Interviewed by Salon's Joan Walsh, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi commented

Again, we want this to be a year [debt-ceiling extension]. That it’s six weeks, it’s ridiculous. But if we can help them do both, open the government and protect the full faith and credit of the United States – well, we reserve the right to do both. But six weeks is not a good thing. I mean, these are both “No’s” – shut down government, and lift the debt ceiling for just six weeks – it’s not like one’s good, and one’s a bitter pill. No. They’re both bitter pills. It’s all bad. But we’ll see what we have to do. And one thing they know about us is that we’re responsible. And they think that we’ll hold them in good stead, that they can be irresponsible and we will save the day. So I think that we have to think about the long term in all of this.

Asked then whether "could being the 'responsible' party actually be irresponsible, because it keeps them coming back and asking for more," Pelosi responded "That’s exactly right. We’re enablers. We’ve become enablers. We can’t be that anymore."

Can't be, but may be.

A scheme to lift the debt ceiling briefly, then enter into negotiations to effect "modest reforms to entitlement programs and the tax code" was proposed earlier this week by none other than House Budget Committee Chairman Pompous Paul Ryan and quickly became the official position of the GOP caucus in the lower chamber.  With stinging criticism, Charles Pierce finds Ryan's

"budget" is a naked blueprint for a plutocratic dystopia. He trotted it out in 2010 and was laughed at by, among other people, the laff riots at the CBO. He ran for vice-president and the Democrats hung Ryan's zombie-eyed granny-starving around Willard Romney's neck -- where, it must be said, it fit like a tailored short. Ryan and his economic snake oil was resoundingly rejected by the entire country, and now people are lining up to help him peddle it again.

Nonetheless, Pierce laments, The New York Times (a fixture in the "liberal media") gushed (and not on the editorial pages)

The fact that Mr. Ryan's plan quite obviously made no mention of the health care law as a bargaining chip quickly drew him scorn from some on the right, but to Democrats and more moderate Republicans, the sidelining of the health care fight immediately gave the plan credibility.  

Pierce issues a challenge:  "Find me," he says, "the Democrats who believe this. Find them and bring them to me. (For that matter, find me 'moderate Republicans.')"

There is, of course, no more moderate Republicans in Congress, except those meeting weekly in a telephone booth (anachronistic reference, admittedly), with room to spare.  But there might be one very important Democrat open to the idea.   Representatives of Republican leadership and of theWhite House met Thursday

In addition to ending the shutdown and increasing the debt limit, under the proposal Congress and the White House would explore ways to ease across-the-board federal budget cuts that began taking effect a year ago, and replace at least part of them with benefit-program curbs that have been included in recent presidential budgets. Officials who described the approach did so on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss private conversations.

Politico reported Friday that National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling

reiterated that the president will not negotiate with Republicans under the threat of default but that once this is out of the way, the White House stands ready to negotiate a budget deal — large, small or medium.

“If you essentially reward a faction of our government for saying they will put the country into default if they do not get their policy concessions, what that would do is essentially sanction that kind of negotiation or extortion and ensure that it continues and becomes a routine part of our form of governing," Sperling said.

And late Friday afternoon CNN revealed

Carney and Boehner spokesman Michael Steel issued identical statements that the two leaders spoke by phone and called for talks to continue among all parties.

At the same time, Carney reiterated that Obama opposes negotiations on broader budget and deficit reduction issues during a shutdown and under the threat of a possible first-ever U.S. default."Because budget negotiations are complicated business and each side has principled views, they should not be conducted under the cloud of the government being shut down and they certainly shouldn't be conducted under the threat of default," he said.

President Obama refuses to reward the GOP temper tantrum- until it ends and at that point, he has hinted, he'll be ready to entertain the kind of ideas Ryan pitches.  Few rank-and-file Democrats are intrigued by Ryan's plan, and "moderate Republicans" is largely a fixture of the Beltway imagination.  Nevertheless, President Obama appears comfortable that, as Pierce explains, "Paul Ryan's 'credibility' depends on nothing except his willingness to find mendacious sales techniques with which to pitch the destruction of every bit of progressive Democratic economic accomplishment back past the New Deal and all the way back to the Progressives of the early 20th century. This never has changed."

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