Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Burn the Land and Boil the Sea

My piece over at Greg's place today emphasizes the differences between the Boehner and Reid plans. I wish I had seen Jonathan Chait's post before I wrote mine; he goes at it from a different angle, but I basically agree with how he sees it.

I also want to direct attention to what Chait said earlier today about House Republicans:
[I]t seems that Boehner successfully appealed to the GOP's sense of partisanship. Selling a compromise with Obama as a necessary step toward the fulfillment of one's agenda in a power-sharing arrangement is hard. Selling an attack on Obama in those terms -- even one that does far less to reduce the size of government -- turns out to be pretty easy...[O]nce you've gotten the right to cross the philosophic threshold Boehner has, the next step is a lot easier. Boehner will lose plenty of conservatives if and when he cuts a final deal, but he'll gain Democrats. The key step was breaking down the right's default denialism and sense of entitlement to total victory. That's achieved.
As I said earlier today...maybe. The problem is that Boehner is trying a pretty tricky move: step one is to get them to give up "total victory" and, in some cases, a reluctance to ever vote for a debt limit increase in return for the partisan loyalty of voting against what Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid want -- and then next step will be to get a lot of those same Republicans to sign onto a deal that Obama, Pelosi, and Reid also support. Except he won't need all of them, because for every Democrats who goes for that deal, that's a Republican that doesn't have to. I think it's still too early to see how it turns out.

Seth Masket managed to fit a Boehner/Indiana Jones into his excellent post on the debt limit negotiations today, so I'll try to top that by saying that John Boehner is a bit like Mal Reynolds, who having decided to do the right thing and realizing that it involves betraying Niska, is busy scrambling around trying to figure out how to save his skin (that basically makes the Tea Party Niska, right?). The question here is only whether Niska's flunky (no, I'm not going to suggest a name) will meet the same gruesome-but-awesome fate in this version of it. Also, I sort of doubt that House Republicans would come to Boehner's rescue if the Tea Party catches and tortures him. Even if they have Wash, too.


  1. Your blogger geek cred just skyrocketed! Well played, sir.

  2. I love when political bloggers make allusions to movies that were staples of my childhood--Star Wars, Raiders, Ghostbusters, The Princess Bride, Spaceballs, Back to the Future, etc.

    Oh, were you saying something about the debt limit?

  3. Oooooooooooo! Shiny!

  4. I would love if Boehner kicked Cantor into the engine of Serenity and dealt with the more reasonable flunky. But I doubt there is another one Boehner could deal with. Pelosi needs to pull an Inara and save Boehner.

  5. Concluding that Reid's plan is better than Boehner's is tantamount to saying that there is no "Black Swan" risk in budget discussions. More on the black swan in a minute.

    Yesterday I pointed out that the after-battle care of the unprecedented numbers of surviving wounded veterans is a huge budgetary challenge in the years ahead. Did a quick google search; got back one NYT article...and then a bunch of military publications, saying - tellingly - this is gonna be really expensive, so get ready for a protracted fight, military folks.

    We could probably do the same type of google search for expensive care for seniors and get more or less the same pattern of results. Or technology in the military/industrial complex.

    The "Black Swan" here is not a downgrade or even, heaven forbid, Greek-style default. Its Congressional/Presidential default. Its Washington deciding that fighting all these battles is too difficult, and throwing in the budgetary towel, enjoying their view from Congress/WH as the Ship of State goes down the drain.

    If you think this black swan is impossible, keep in mind that our vaunted Presidential election system has vomited up winners the last three cycles whose resumes have summary statements saying "Slacked my way through everything" and "Never managed anything".

    The Black Swan of DC disengagement, leading to national decay, is far closer than optimists think. The Tea Partiers are nuts, generally, but their point should be well-taken by anyone, of any political stripe, who fears for the country.

  6. @CSH Please excuse a somewhat (though not entirely!) partisan response to your comment.

    Mr. "Never Managed Anything" has, despite the great handicap of never having been a mayor, governor or CEO, "managed" to help staunch the Great Recession, wind down the Iraq War, decapitate al-Qaeda, and preside over one of the great bursts of progressive legislation in the past century.

    P.S. As for Mr. "Slacked My Way Through Everything", well, yeah. In our defense, he had done a decent job as governor (by Texas standards) when his Svengali was a respected and talented conservative Democrat. Also, to the extent the American people had a vote in it (limited as we found out), we voted for the other guy.

  7. massappeal - thanks for the response. No one cares about my personal preferences, but FWIW, I voted for the fellow with no managerial experience, and I like him quite a bit personally, and in part because I have little alternative, I still have high (managerial) hopes for him.

    I also didn't mean the "no management experience" comment in the context of one of those silly, Palin-esque jibes about Obama's lack of credentials. More in the context of the larger implications:

    To the extent that our economic realities may soon be unable to accomodate Grandpa's prostate treatment and Sergeant Jones' new stainless steel leg, the buck, empirically, stops at the desk of a guy who hasn't so much as had to discipline a lazy third-shifter, much less lead the impossible types of choices both a) outlined above, and b) no doubt coming soon to a city near you.

    Even though we like Obama personally, the lack of internal controls involved in putting people into these increasingly difficult jobs (President/Congress) ought to be a source of significant concern.

  8. Anyone who references "Firefly" immediately moves to the top of my Favorite Bloggers list.

  9. Ok, I love me a Firefly reference too, but this is really a terrible slur on Malcolm Reynolds.


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