Everyone seems to think that the Republicans will blink as we head into the debt ceiling showdown. I'm not at all convinced.
Many conservatives really want to run the train off the tracks. Some of them long for secession. Nearly all of them want the basic rules of government remade in Ayn Rand's image.
Naomi Klein is right. They want to apply a shock doctrine to America. The fragile economy is ready to shatter, and they refuse to allow any measures that would fix it.
They won't allow taxes to go up to what they were under Ronald Reagan, or even Bill Clinton.
They won't allow the creation of further government jobs programs. We all made fun of Republican pork spending during the Dubya years, but that spending helped keep the engine running.
And they won't tolerate balancing the books by scaling back military adventurism. Some Republicans are talking dovish, but that didn't stop many of them from taking a no-substitute-for-victory stance
after Obama announced a mild Afghanistan troop withdrawal. They also refused to cut off funds for the Libya adventure.
So, yeah, I think that the conservatives aren't in a mood to conserve. They want the American experiment to end. If you have a vision of a New Jerusalem, you first need a apocalypse.
Of course, whenever the neo-liberals have tried to build a New Jerusalem in other lands, the trick did not work. In Russia, they managed to replace communism with a plutocracy which made people nostalgic for Stalin. In America, no matter how much they try to rewrite history, they will never erase memories of the prosperous post-war decades -- that lovely time when we were, as Nixon put it, all Keynesians.
I think that Obama will cave on Medicare. Right now, it's obvious that he wants to run on a platform of "He saved Medicare." He doesn't really want
to save Medicare, but he wants to run on that platform. However, it may be enough for him to run on a "He tried
to save Medicare" platform.Dakinikat
seems to agree that the Republicans are more than half in love with un-easeful death:
Meanwhile, the Republicans have left the budget talks because returning taxes to responsible levels is too politically unpalatable for them. They’d rather rely on tanking the economy and blaming it on Obama. The Senate Republicans are hoping that John Boehner will take the bullet for them. We’re all going to need lessons on surviving our politicians destroying our economy.
She brings our attention to this piece
by Matthew Yglesias on surviving "Debtpocalypse":
The first step to sound policy in this case is to make sure we keep paying interest on the debt. Thus default and immediate catastrophe is avoided. Second, what you want to do is minimize the impact on government activities. That means that in the first instance you want to try to stiff people to whom the government owes money but who will probably keep working even if you don’t pay them. Take defense contractors, for example. If Robert Gates tells a bullet-making company that he can’t pay the Pentagon’s bills this month because Eric Cantor is being obstinate, but please keep sending bullets anyway, the bullet-makers aren’t going to leave our troops bullet-less. We just need to tell them to keep sending the invoices coming, and promise that all bills will be paid once Cantor relents. Hospitals, doctors, and other Medicare providers are the other low-hanging fruit here. Patients will continue to be treated, doctors will keep filing paperwork, and Kathleen Sebelius will keep reassuring people that they’ll be paid when the congressional gridlock is resolved.
Over time, of course, these tactics tend to run into limits. We may need to start paying people less than their full Social Security checks, mailing a partial benefit plus a note explaining that back benefits will be paid once congress lifts the debt ceiling.
Might I suggest that this is the wrong way to go about it?
Obama should not want the thing to be painless. A nice blast of pain -- with blame for the pain properly apportioned -- might be enough to jolt the country out of our current libertarian trance.
In other words, liberals...
(Let us, for the sake of argument, operate under the presumption that there might be actual liberals running the administration and the Democratic party. I realize that this proposition will strike many of you as a laughable hypothesis. Consider it a thought experiment, akin to Einstein's elevator in space.)
...liberals should embrace their own version of the shock doctrine. Right now, the Wall Streeters and the Friedmanites and the Randroids determine the limits of permissible thought. A shock might be just the thing to adjust our national thinking.
In the old days, whenever the conservatives cut local budgets, liberals did not try to make pain-free cuts. They made sure that library hours were slashed ruthlessly. Moms would complain, and they would complain loudly enough to convince the Dads that low taxes come at a cost.
I'm not sure that the library trick would work nowadays, because fewer people read books (although most people still think that they ought
to read books). But a large-scale variant of the library trick might work.
My suggestion: A sudden pull-out from Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq.
I'm talking about a pull-out so
very sudden that even anti-war activists would consider it irresponsible. Make sure that things go to hell quickly in one or more of those three countries.
The situation would be a bit like the end of THX-1138
, where the manhunt ends just as the robo-cops are about to nab our hero, because some computer somewhere has decided that the chase has gone, like, twenty dollar over budget.
Then Obama should get on teevee and say that we had to end our superpower status because the Republicans cut off our money. Use those exact words.
should get everyone's attention. Call it the THX trick. It would work. It might even convince the rich to agree to reasonable taxes.
Instead, I think that Obama will go for the soft landing approach. Wrong. A shock is coming, will thee or nil thee. But who will control it, and who will benefit from it?