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Saturday, December 01, 2012

Cliff notes

Michael Grunwald, wirting in Time, has today's quotable quote:
It’s really amazing to see political reporters dutifully passing along Republican complaints that President Obama’s opening offer in the fiscal cliff talks is just a recycled version of his old plan, when those same reporters spent the last year dutifully passing along Republican complaints that Obama had no plan. It’s even more amazing to see them pass along Republican outrage that Obama isn’t cutting Medicare enough, in the same matter-of-fact tone they used during the campaign to pass along Republican outrage that Obama was cutting Medicare.

This isn’t just cognitive dissonance. It’s irresponsible reporting. Mainstream media outlets don’t want to look partisan, so they ignore the BS hidden in plain sight, the hypocrisy and dishonesty that defines the modern Republican Party. I’m old enough to remember when Republicans insisted that anyone who said they wanted to cut Medicare was a demagogue, because I’m more than three weeks old.
The current Republican position seems to be that the fiscal cliff’s instant austerity would destroy the economy, which is odd after four years of Republican clamoring for austerity, and that the cliff’s military spending cuts in particular would kill jobs, which is even odder after four years of Republican insistence that government spending can’t create jobs.
At the same time, though, they also want Obama to propose bigger Medicare cuts, even though they spent the last campaign slamming Obama’s Medicare cuts and denying their interest in Medicare cuts. I live in Florida, so I had the pleasure of hearing a radio ad from Allen West, hero of the Tea Party, vowing to protect Medicare.
To which Steve Benen adds:
Despite an election cycle in which Democrats did very well up and down the ballot, the Senate GOP leader envisions an agreement in which Republicans get the Medicare cuts they want, Republicans get the Social Security cuts they want, and Republicans get the tax rates they want. In exchange, McConnell would give Democrats Mitt Romney's revenue plan.

To my eyes, it's beginning to look a lot like 1995. A Republican congress stands ready to inflict severe economic pain on the people in the name of fiscal austerity. Of course, their love of austerity kicks in only when a Democrat is president. If Obama had lost, conservatives would have reverted to the Cheney position -- "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter."

Here's the thing: People don't like austerity. Sometimes they pretend that they do, but they really don't. When the unemployment checks stop and payroll taxes go up, Americans will start screeching. The only question is who will get the worst of that screechable moment.

I think that the public will blame an obstructionist House, just as they did in 1995. We may see one of history's great reruns. That's the message we get from a CNN poll published five days ago...
The poll also indicates that the GOP is not exactly bargaining from a position of strength. Fifty-three percent of the country has an unfavorable view of the Republican Party; only 42% want to see congressional Republican have more influence than the president over the direction the nation takes in the next two years. And seven in ten say the GOP has not done enough to cooperate with Obama.

All of that helps explain why more Americans would blame the Republicans in Congress (45%) rather than Obama (34%) if the fiscal cliff provisions actually go into effect next year. Obama comes in for his share of criticism - nearly half say he is not doing enough to cooperate with the Republicans, although seven in ten want him to compromise with the GOP even if he has to sacrifice some of his beliefs.
That last sentence offers Republicans the only hopeful note available to them, and it ain't much. Obama has a history of compromise, of negotiating away his position before he sits down at the table to face his opponents. People know about this history. They also know that conservatives do not negotiate at all.

So if no compromise is reached (and I'm starting to get used to the idea), Republicans will get hit with a massive beam of hate that their propagandists won't be able to redirect. If House Republicans don't suck it up and make a deal now, they will be in an even suckier position soon.

Not long ago, Bill Maher quipped that Obama is half black and half white, so let's hope that his next administration is the black one. I'm hoping that this term will be the Democratic one. If Obama compromises (too much) to avoid the cliff, we'll know that the next four years will be as depressing as the previous four. If he hangs tough, we'll all know that there's a new Obama in town.

Let the military shrink; let the Bush tax cuts (all of them) lapse. Let Congress face the public's anger as the unemployment bennies dry up. In the spirit of compromise, Obama should agree to Social Security reform. Then he should stipulate that the only "reform" he'll tolerate is raising the cap.
I'm so sorry! All I hear is, "blah, blah, blah."
Bill Clinton had the charisma and talent to make America hate the House republicans back in 1995. Something that is sorely lacking in Obama, Pelosi, and Reid. Bill's talent was such that it muted the pro-republican "journalism" spewed by the print and broadcast media. This includes the bog-trotters out to get their English betters as chronicled by Bob Somerby.
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