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They lost.  They lost and they know they lost.  They lost and they've even been through most of the stages of grieving over the loss.  So how come the Republicans in the lame duck Congress are still acting as though they have any leverage in the negotiations over tax and spending policy that have to happen between now and year's end if we're to avoid the automatic tax increases and spending sequestration that will kick in if Congress and President Obama can't make a deal?  Well, they don't have any leverage, and they know that too.  They're behaving the way they are for a different reason.  They've painted themselves into a corner.

It isn't that Boehner and Co. can't stand the idea of making a deal.  It isn't even that they're so afraid of Grover Norquist -- he has had to appear publicly more and more frequently lately, and the more he does, the more obvious it is that his intellectual and emotional development stopped around the time he wrote that pledge, at age 12.  The problem is that if they agree to a reasonable deal, and the economy responds favorably, then even their low-information base may realize that the Republicans' whole low-tax, small-government premise has been, in a word, a lie.

Today's Republican Congress members have a real problem.  Many are professional politicians, accustomed to the privileges and power that come with their position -- a position they want to keep.  Their party, of course, is in the thrall of the Tea Party, the conservative think tanks, and the aforementioned overgrown twelve-year-old.  That position led to the strategy that Mitch McConnell so eloquently laid out at the beginning of the President's first term.  The Republicans would fight for outlandish tax cuts to provide a return for their investors, enact punishing spending cuts to shrink government and mire the economy in recession, and blame the resulting deficits and economic malaise on President Obama.  As part of their strategy, they cranked up their whole propaganda apparatus -- Fox, Beck, Rush, and even the Wall Street Journal -- to sell the idea that tax cuts for the rich are the only medicine that could save us from catastrophe.  If it had worked, even Mitt Romney would've had a chance to unseat the President.  

But it didn't work.  So now Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, and their Republican colleagues have a problem.  The Murdoch complex (mostly Fox and the WSJ) repeated the tax-cuts-for-the-rich canard so loudly and so often that even some reasonably intelligent people have begun to believe it.  By some alchemy I don't fully understand, the deranged rantings of Rick Santelli on CNBC have made schoolyard libertarianism a topic that might come up somewhere other than a college dining hall.  But as the calm, moderate and liberal voices that have taken up the matter have steadily reminded us, the whole Republican economic program is just smoke and mirrors.  If Boehner and McConnell cut a reasonable deal and the economy responds well, then even their base will realize they've been had.  So the Republican "leadership" in Congress has every reason to try to cut a crappy deal, and hope the economy takes it badly so they can somehow pin the blame on the Democrats.

The President and the Democratic Congressional leadership have a choice.  They either have to let the Republicans out of their corner, or trap them in it permanently.   I'm not sure which way to expect them to go.  The way to let the elephant out of the corner is to allow the Bush tax cuts -- all of them -- to expire, and then allow the Republicans to claim some credit for a partial restoration of the cuts to some income level in the President's preferred range.  The main risk is that this course could result in accidental cuts to Social Security and Medicare, which may be why Ms Pelosi has been so firm in declaring that those programs are not up for negotiation.  So for now, I think our leaders are following the right course.  They're pushing for a straight-up, sane deal, designed to place our public finances on a sustainable path and to avoid driving the economy back into the soup.  But they'll do well to realize that their adversaries are in a corner, so they're even less likely than usual to act rationally.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tranquilizer gun??? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mrsgoo, Liberal Protestant

    Fear is the Mind Killer...

    by boophus on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 08:43:35 PM PST

    •  That may explain (0+ / 0-)

      Boehner's face...

      •  LP - they aren't in a corner (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Liberal Protestant

        There are many in the GOP House who won't say it out loud but would be happy to see all the Bush tax cuts expire and the full sequestration implemented because it will cut the current annual deficit nearly in half.

        I think our voters will be significantly more harmed than theirs with the end of supplemental unemployment payments, the end of the payroll tax cut, and higher withholding and income taxes for many. The over $250,000 crowd isn't going to feel any real hardships and the GOP knows this. I don't know why people here at DKOS seem to think the Dems have all the leverage. I don't see it at all. Even if the President uses the bully pulpit effectively the next elections are a two years away.  My prediction is no deal in 2012 and a "grand bargain" before the August recess in 2013.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 09:13:33 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Nah, Repubs don't really care about the deficit, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Liberal Protestant

          the Bush Tax cuts favor the wealthy more then any other group and the GOP has basically sold their whole brand on tax cuts for the rich, they certainly don't want the income taxes and Estate taxes going up.

          the payroll tax cut is expiring, it's not even being discussed really.

          •  Jimmy - while the Bush tax cuts have more (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Liberal Protestant

            value to each high income earner they are a fraction of the total tax revenue lost by the lower rates. The annual amount of revenue lost by all the Bush cuts is approximately $380 billion, of which $80 billion are families with incomes over $250,000. So allowing all the Bush tax cuts to expire picks up another $300 billion a year or $3 trillion over the ten year forecast period. That helps deficit reduction in a material way. Just allowing the tax rates on the top 2% to increase to 40% reduces the deficit by just 8% because we are currently running deficits at the $1 trillion level. There are some Republicans who would like to see the deficit spending dramatically reduced. They would prefer spending cuts to tax rate hikes, but they will quietly applaud to themselves if the US goes over the fiscal ramp.

            "let's talk about that"

            by VClib on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 11:27:39 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  A wounded Elephant is especially dangerous-- (4+ / 0-)

    mad with rage and fear. They're on the rampage and will destroy everything in their path.

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 09:14:01 PM PST

  •  Well said. Their biggest fears: (4+ / 0-)

    That Democratic policies succeed.

    And they've had a taste of that with Social Security.

    If we can break thru this to the other side, and let those
    who have in the past voted against their own best interests
    see the truth,

    Well, the gop is so screwed.  

    If we can show that taxes--which no one Likes to pay--
    can actually provide things like health care for everyone,
    or a safe and efficient infrastructure--

    They are so screwed.

    No one would ever vote for them again.
    [that is to say, after we get past things like racism,
    misogyny, homophobia, etc.   :) ]

    •  Exactly... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Liberal Protestant, mama jo

      This is the real reason for their vehement opposition to Obamacare.  Once the public sees that, although not perfect, Obamacare actually benefits the general public, the GOP game will be up.  The Democratic party will once again be seen as champions of working people, AKA as wealth creators.

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