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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Deal or no deal...?

 There's a deal in the works. We all expected that.
Senate Democrats have pushed for sequestration to end, bringing the yearly discretionary budget to $1.058 trillion while Republicans have pushed to keep the $967 billion total while shifting cuts from defense programs to social programs.
This, despite the fact that polls (as referenced in the previous post) indicate that the American people would rather cut Defense and preserve social programs. If this is a democracy, how come the will of the majority is routinely thwarted?

So far, we're talking about the Senate plan. At the moment, Obama is rejecting a House plan as "too partisan," too tea-stained. And the plan does indeed seem to be designed to placate the baggers.

Meanwhile, Ted Cruz -- the new king of kook-dom -- has been spotted in secret meetings (in a place called Tortilla Coast!) figuring out how to respond to this new initiative being stitched together by the less-kooky Republicans. Since quick action in the Senate would require unanimous consent, Cruz could screw up any deal all by his lonesome.
Of course, Cruz and his allies in the Senate could decide to attempt a filibuster of the deal, but doing so would likely push any Senate vote on final passage past the Thursday deadline to raise the debt ceiling. That would mean Cruz and his allies would bear the brunt of any political consequences that might come from a default, including a potential dramatic downturn in the stock market and/or the world economy. Conversely, allowing the deal to move through the Senate without a fight could cost Cruz his pugnacious conservative credentials.
So from my perspective, we have two options here. The first option would give us the proverbial dark cloud with a silver lining -- the cloud being a default, the silver lining being the widespread understanding that the teabaggers would fully own the dark cloud. Option 2 -- Ted eats the brown and nasty -- is pure silver lining with nary a dark cloud in sight.

Some would argue that option 1 would serve this country better, because it would provide the detergent which might finally remove the tea stains from our flag. (Yes, I've mixed way too many metaphors in this post. That's how upset I am. Blame Ted Cruz.) But a refusal to raise the credit limit would have horrific effects on our economy. In the resultant chaos, something far worse than the Tea Party might take hold of the public imagination. (Apply standard Weimar comparison here.)

By the way: Are you as creeped out as I am to learn that Mitch Freakin' McConnell is now considered the voice of Republican responsibility? During the reign of Poppy Bush, McConnell was considered a far-right fruitcake. At that time, we had no idea just how fruitcake-y this country would soon get.

Let's get back to the new debt ceiling deal. I can't say that I'm entirely happy with what I'm seeing.

Alas, the new plan will probably create a whole new crisis in early 2014. That's a big problem. We are wooing disaster if we continue to have these dramas on an annual or twice-yearly basis. The dollar will lose its reserve currency status if the shit happening now becomes shit that happens all the damn time, because there's a little thing called The Rest of the World which many pundits have not fully taken into consideration. The Rest of the World has had it with our shit.

Yesterday, Matthew Ygelsias argued that if the GOP (which is in a weak position, poll-wise) truly wants a major concession out of Obama, it will have to make a deal designed to make sure that the debt ceiling crisis never happens again.
Even better, Republicans would be accomplishing something useful for the country. The debt ceiling is the legislative equivalent of an infected appendix—an aspect of the political system that no longer has any constructive role to play in the governance of the nation but can nonetheless cause trouble.
Yglesias goes on to outline the history of the debt ceiling, which was originally institued as a way to ease federal borrowing (believe it or not).
Absent the free-form wartime spending of 100 years ago, the debt ceiling does not actually constrain government spending. In a sense, it doesn’t really even limit government debts. Doctors who treat Medicare patients are still owed what they are owed. Paying doctors with money and raising the money in the form of bonds is the conventional and appropriate way to acknowledge that debt. But if we don’t sell the bonds and don’t pay the doctors, the debt still exists—it’s just owed to doctors rather than bond investors.

For all these reasons, every country other than Denmark manages to get by without any sort of statutory debt ceiling. If we scrapped ours, we’d defuse the risk of future defaults and give up nothing.
My advice: Offer up Obamacare as the ultimate concession.

There. I said it. Get rid of Obamacare in exchange for a new law which insures that the Republicans can no longer use the debt ceiling as a weapon.

With so many many people ticked off at the Republicans, a future Congress might be more liberal, and thus more willing to support a better-than-Obamacare plan. (We'll have more on the polls below.)

Today, Yglesias has a new piece which admits that his "fix it once and for all" solution probably is not going to happen. 
The debt ceiling is suspended until Feb. 7: That is not so far off in the future. I've been hoping Congress would do the country a favor and reach a deal to scrap the debt ceiling once and for all, but I think the optimistic thinking is that this hypothetical Jan. 15 deal can also include the debt ceiling.
Where the teabaggers are concerned, never bet on optimism; always bet on intransigence.

The Dems may well be in an even stronger position in early 2014. It's an election year. The public is clearly pissed off at the baggers, and at the GOP for allowing the bagger faction to take control.

Could the Democrats retake the House? Right now, the polls are iffy on that score. This piece in RealClearPolitics argues that all thoughts of a Democratic wave are foolish:
In fact, early polling indicates the 2014 midterm might produce another electoral shift, but not one that shoves Republicans out of power.

First of all, the playing field of vulnerable GOP seats is too narrow for Republicans to lose their majority, baring a massive wave. (Think 1894, when 107 Democrats were swept out of the House.)

Second, major waves historically have not happened concurrent with the “six-year itch” – the election held in the sixth year of a president's tenure...
I'm not entirely persuaded by this argument. A lot of writers seem to think that precedent is predictive, but that's not always the case. The current situation is very unusual.

So let's look at the statement offered by Public Policy Polling a week ago...
If the 2014 elections were held today, Republicans would be in grave danger of losing control of the House of Representatives, according to a series of 24 surveys conducted by Public Policy Polling in Republican-held House districts over the past few days. The surveys challenge the conventional wisdom that gerrymandering has put the House out of reach for Democrats.
Also see here.

Bottom line: If Ted Cruz and his crew do something really, really stupid in the next couple of days, this country is in for a lot of pain -- and as we undergo agony, our entire political structure could be remade, for the better or for the worse. If they do something stupid in February, ditto. There's going to be a fierce ideological war for the hearts and minds of Americans between now and February, and I don't think the baggers can win it.

Maybe what this country really needs is one month where Grandma doesn't get her Social Security check. Just one month. Imagine the uproar. That should suffice to lay Ayn's ghost.
Never wanted to lay Ayn. Slay maybe.
Bob, I rewrote that sentence about five times before finally deciding to allow the readers to supply their own pun on the word "lay."
Cruz's absence does not prevent "unanimous consent."

He can prevent it only by being present and casting a "no" vote.
No one really knows what causes mid-terms to go against POTUS, but one theory is that the voter likes to balance the equation of power. Problem is, many voters may see Congress as having too much power, so I think it's quite possible those deep red districts, though gerry-mandered, may squeeze out some of the toxicity.

"Offer up Obamacare as the ultimate concession."

"There. I said it. Get rid of Obamacare in exchange for a new law which insures that the Republicans can no longer use the debt ceiling as a weapon."

"With so many many people ticked off at the Republicans, a future Congress might be more liberal, and thus more willing to support a better-than-Obamacare plan."

Or it might not.

If things go that route, do you think many swing-type voters are going to be pissed off with the Republicans in a year's time for the same reasons they are now?

The US Congress is one of the means by which the country and the world are being fucked up now; it isn't going to be something different in a year's time. Nobody really gives a fuck about the constitution.

I still don't think there's going to be a deal, but we shall see.

The US dollar can't stay as the world's reserve currency forever. In that role, it's way past its expiry date.
Some people would think, with a lot of justification, "I voted for the Dems and all they did was cave in to the Repugs, so why shouldn't I stay at home next time?" I don't believe in the big lie of parliamentary democracy, and one reason I'm in favour of apocalypse is because it might introduce some truth into the way people think, but on the level of what's in the media, I dearly hope Obama tells the Repuglicans to back down or go and fuck themselves.
"Second, major waves historically have not happened concurrent with the “six-year itch” – the election held in the sixth year of a president's tenure..."

This is one of the few times that political/historical comparisons do not wash. That "six-year itch" parallel doesn't really compute when we're all sitting on the default cliff with an AK-47 pointed to our head. And Boehner deserves no pity, particularly after we learned that the Republicans rigged the House vote by changing the standard procedural rules, making shutdown and cliff hanging totally in the hands of the Republican leadership. They wanted this; they got it.

And if we all go down, we'll know the guilty party. As for Ted Cruz? He's an oily, irresponsible demagogue who is playing the Devil's game for his own benefit among the swamp creatures. How the GOP can pretend that Cruz is anything but a spoiler, an obstructionist playing to the lowest common denominator is beyond me. There's a point where as a group, you can slide from dissent into treasonous behavior.

I think we're there.

What can Obama do? He can call on the 14th Amendment though he's loathe to do it . The trillion dollar coin idea is still out there. Over at New Economic Perspectives I've read several ideas that the Executive Branch could attempt to prevent utter chaos. But that means Obama would have to risk his presidency.

We're now staring at the abyss.

Any reaction, Joe? Mine is, this ain't Sweden.

"More broadly, the worse Republicans can make government operate, the more people they can convince that government is worthless and cannot be redeemed and we need to look for other answers. I’d posit that the long-term success of this program is quite evident among sections of the left that sees the government getting in the way of individual rights and turning toward anarchist methods and goals rather than central planning and socialism."
Ted Cruz knows all about the eschaton.

1) His wife Heidi Cruz, as well as being a VP at Goldman Sachs, is the daughter of two Seventh-Day Adventists.

2) He himself has supported the Seventh Day Adventists, by giving the 'commencement address' at a function held by the Southwest Adventist University. (Turn to pages 8 and 17). I'm not sure whether that information has registered yet with those who warn about him.
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