Monday, February 25, 2013

Elsewhere: Budget

Well, I found out today that the phone lines here at Plain Blog World Headquarters can't withstand a mild breeze, and so blogging was slower than expected (it was a bit windy; I wound up getting disconnected and having to reboot four times so far. Not fun).

But I do have new posts out, both about sequestration, elsewhere. At Greg's place, I hit the GOP for pretending that the 2012 elections never happened. Truth is that the GOP rhetoric surrounding the budget has gone from weak to weaker...there's just no way that anyone is going to be convinced by what they are saying. Not, of course, that it's all that big a deal, but still. Anyway, at PP I suggested the two reasons that we keep getting impasses on the budget: it might be because it's natural for budget negotiations to wind up going to the last minute, but it also might be because Republicans won't reconcile their own views about taxes and deficits.

And as long as I'm here...if you missed it over the weekend, my Salon column was about how the GOP spin on sequestration undermines productive budget negotiations.


  1. There are two things I don't understand about the issues raised in these articles.

    1. Why should the Republicans in congress respect the November elections? I mean, they all won their elections. I certainly want my Democratic representative to fight for what I want rather than what the nation on the whole wants. (Not that she does!) So even if I find what the Republicans are doing to be repugnant, I do think it goes along with what their constituencies want. (More or less.)

    2. Why does everyone pretend that Republicans care about the deficit? As far as I can tell, they care about funneling money (through welfare and tax policy) to the rich. They don't mind raising taxes on the poor and they seem almost giddy about cutting funding for the poor. But mostly, it is making the rich richer that drives them. I don't see any evidence of the Republican Party being interested in deficits. It seems just to be a smokescreen for doing these other things.

    It is annoying when Republicans turn against policies they once favored. Think: ACA. But I think this just comes from the fact that they weren't really for these things in the first place. They just needed to look reasonable as they set about doing what they care about: making the rich richer.

    I don't mean to be cynical about this stuff. But I think this is what's going on generally. Am I just some deluded leftist who's been blinded by late night readings of Das Kapital?

    1. On your first point:

      I tried to be careful about this, but I may not have been as clear as I should have been.

      I absolutely think that Boehner and the GOP are entitled to fight for what they can get; they're not obliged to back down because the elections delivered some sort of mystical "mandate."

      However, it's also true that they have fewer votes than they had last time around (in both chambers), and that Obama's position is stronger, too, than it was in '11 and '12. And so if Boehner thinks he'll get an identical deal to what he would have received then, he's almost certainly wrong.

    2. I think a much stronger case can be made for the leadership, because they do need to look out for the party generally. I was thinking more of the nutball caucus: those 50 or so Republicans who are against every deal and who think the country turned socialist the moment Washington stepped down after 8 years. (Just kidding! Like they know American history!)

      It does seem that Boehner's rhetoric is more extreme than ever. But I've been thinking this is because he knows he has less power.

      Now I have to get back to Das Kapital. I'm at the climax where the proletariat becomes the dictator but then abdicates in exchange union rights that are slowly whittled away.

  2. . . . it also might be because Republicans won't reconcile their own views about taxes and deficits.

    Understatement of the year thus far.

  3. I included a link to your Salon piece in

  4. Regarding the PP piece, I like to think that at least some of the Republicans are posturing (or "bargaining," to make it sound less negative) and don't really believe some of the things that they say, but as you say, that works only as long as it doesn't prevent real negotiations. Just look at the summer of 2011. They used the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip, or seemed to, and then they wouldn't bargain. Boehner fit my model, he tried to cut a deal, but the others shot him down. That doesn't bode so well. Now that I think about it, that fiasco immediately followed a deal on the budget that the GOP Right saw as a sell-out rather than a bargain. Given their attitude toward the fiscal cliff outcome, it bodes even worse.

    Looking ahead, if the sequester goes through, are they really going to turn around in three weeks and agree to undo it in a continuing resolution (unless Wall Street goes ape)?

  5. There's another plausible explanation for the Republican behavior you note in the PP piece: the sequester is not what you think it is.

    In 2013 the sequester will amount to about $44 B out of a $3T+ federal budget. Its been coming for well over a year. Yes, yes, we've all seen the reports about failures in military readiness and children left behind, but did we mention this has been in the works for over a year?

    Heaven forfend, but perhaps the House Republicans are being a little savvy here. Maybe they understand, as apparently no contemporary liberals do, that large budgets are managed with pad, that a year's warning of looming cuts is handled by shuffling pieces around, though such handling is never acknowledged to the sympathetic sky-is-falling media. That the alarming hours and hours of flight delays and furloughed air traffic controllers doesn't mean the industry doesn't have a contigency plan, it means they don't want to exercise it (who would?)

    Perhaps this is a bit of rope a dope, get the liberals all twisted up in their knickers, $44 B is slashed in a long-since-known cut, and people turn out to - surprise! - have contingencies, and Democrats look hysterical while Republicans look calm.

    If you know you're soon going to have to take something away from an important constituency (e.g. the elderly), maybe its valuable to bank a few PR wins in the runup, which might buy some credibility down the road.

    1. I think the best assumption is always that the political parties are not that smart. My argument has been that the Republicans are making a mistake with the Sequester, but in a different way than is normally thought. It will be bad for the economy, but only for the next year. The damage that will be done will mostly be over by the time of the 2014 midterms. If they want to hurt the economy, they should wait a year. There is only so much economic sabotage that the Republicans can get away with. Best to save the ammo for when it will be most useful.

      For a clearer explanation: Republicans Should Hate Sequestration.

    2. Frank, thanks for the comment and the link, and while you should not take the word of a random anonymous person on the internet, imagine you were in the shoes of Boehner - is it reasonable to assume that all of the liberal sound and fury signifies nothing?

      Of the alarming outcomes on that PDF, perhaps the one most in the news is that a 10% furlough of air traffic controllers will lead to mass chaos in the airline industry. I don't know a thing about airline logistics! But here are some reasons that forecast might be faulty:

      1) Natural variation in daily air traffic suggests there's a decent amount of "safety stock" in air traffic capacity at any given time,

      2) Technological improvement should lessen the demand for air traffic controller capacity much faster than the controllers offer themselves up to be RIF'd.

      3) Whatever bad things happened when Reagan fired the whole crew of air traffic controllers, nothing particularly stuck.

      There are others, but I'll leave it there, and reiterate that if I'm Boehner I'm thinking there's a pretty good chance that a 10% furlough won't have any material impact on the economy beyond the inconvenience to those controllers and their families. If it is a disaster, there's always the CR as an escape hatch in a month.

  6. What really amazes me is how the House Republicans have proposed, and accomplished, nothing in their 50-odd days of work. They've complained that the President isn't doing his job, and that the Senate isn't doing their job. Even though all spending bills must originate in the House, they do nothing.

    It's really a dog that doesn't bark.


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