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Question: What is a terrorist?

Answer: Someone who is willing to harm or threaten an innocent bystander in order to achieve an objective.

We can think of the innocent person as being a hostage. We also know that terrorists are willing to harm themselves in an attack.

A central approach to negotiating with terrorists involves getting them to release their hostages. When there are no hostages left, the terrorists have lost most of their leverage.

The Republicans have been holding three main hostages: the middle class, the poor, and the entire US economy. Several times they have been willing to maim or kill the hostages in order to get what they want: destroying the welfare state, protecting the rich, protecting military contractors, whatever.

Here is one frame to understand what is happening now. Obama has simply been trying to release two of the hostages: the middle class and the poor. By protecting unemployment, middle class tax relief, education tax credits, etc., he has stopped the Republicans from threatening to injure these hostages in the next round of negotiations. He has also taken away some the explosives that the Republicans had. Now they cannot use these weapons to force the economy into recession through across the board tax increases. As we know, the wealthy could weather this recession quite well. For the rest of us, it is major threat.

In this sense, the President has gained critical leverage: The only hostage left now is the entire US economy itself (through refusal to raise the debt ceiling) and it involves a Republican suicide attack. They have to take down the whole ship; they can't just threaten to throw the second class citizens overboard while they sit comfortably on the first deck.

In this sense, I believe Obama has gained critical ground in this round of negotiations. Of course we know that the sequester remains to be negotiated as part of debt ceiling negotiations. But remember, military expenditures are tied up in the process. It is as if the Democrats had chained the loved ones of the Republicans (the military industrial complex) with the very hostages that the Republicans want to take down (social spending). Their fates are now inextricably linked. And the only thing that the Republicans have left as leverage is to sink the entire ship. Yes, they are in their first class cabins. But guess what? Seen the Titanic lately? When the whole boat goes down, the wealthy drown along with underlings.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (3+ / 0-)

    The only thing required for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing.

    by DavidMCastro on Tue Jan 01, 2013 at 06:58:19 PM PST

  •  Don't worry the Republicans have no problem (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DavidMCastro, bear83

    sinking the entire ship.  And they will threaten to do so unless the democrats make a lot of concessions in the debt ceiling fight.

    How much do you want to be we wind up with something like $1 in defense cuts for every $5 in domestic spending cuts in February in exchange for the debt ceiling being raised.  

  •  One problem with your reasoning: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    dems are not anywhere near as wild about cutting military spending as progressives are, as some of it gets spent in their districts.  But, if they were good poker/chess players (big if) they could at least pretend that they want to or are at least willing to see significant cuts to military spending.  I have a hard time seeing them play it right.

    Other than that there is a good bit of logic in your reasoning.

    Power to the Peaceful!

    by misterwade on Tue Jan 01, 2013 at 07:11:08 PM PST

    •  Very true (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I think also that the Dems are not so excited about raising taxes on the rich as are progressives. Many Dems are very rich. I think that some of the move from 250 to 400-450 is because of pressure from wealthy donors. As others have pointed out, Obama is getting a lot of what he wanted in terms of tax increases. Yes we have raised the bar to 400-450 but there is also a faze out of deductions starting at 250. So there is more revenue, definitely. Dems have consistently said they believe that raising taxes on the middle class could threaten the recovery. At the low end of the wealthy, the same analysis applies. I am sure that families earning 450 spend a much greater share of their income that those at the million dollar mark.

      The only thing required for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing.

      by DavidMCastro on Tue Jan 01, 2013 at 07:17:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  the moving of the income line (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        night cat, bear83

        doesn't bother me as much as that we agreed to another hostage crisis in 2 months. I expected it to go up from 250.  That capital gains also go up some (not enough), and dividend taxes too (again not enough) helps to balance that some. But I have a really hard time seeing us coming out of the next crisis without sustaining serious damage.

        Power to the Peaceful!

        by misterwade on Tue Jan 01, 2013 at 07:25:29 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  So, the middle class/poor are 'safe' now?... (0+ / 0-)
       WOLF BLITZER (HOST): Are you going to use the raising of the debt ceiling in February or March, Senator McCain, as leverage to get what you want from the president?

        McCAIN: I think there’s gonna be a whole new field of battle [laughs] when the debt ceiling rolls around. Most of us have pledged that we’re gonna have to… before we vote again to address the debt ceiling — even though it may be at great political cost — we’ve got to address spending, and that means entitlements. We’ve got to sit down together and get us back on a path… look, we just added, what was it, $2.1 trillion in the last increase in the debt ceiling, and spending continues to go up. I think there’s gonna be a pretty big showdown the next time around when we go to the debt [limit].

    Spending = 'entitlements', period. Defense doesn't count.

    draw a window on the wall to remind you of the silkrain that makes things grow - Yoko Ono

    by quinn on Tue Jan 01, 2013 at 07:26:51 PM PST

    •  No they are not safe but... (0+ / 0-)

      That's not the point. The point is what leverage to the R's have. Before this deal, the R's could single out the middle class and the poor for damage as a negotiating ploy in the larger deal. The R's could say: "take these cuts or we'll hurt the middle class economic interests now"  Now the only damage that the R's can inflict as part of the negotiation is pain that they will feel as well.  Yes, we still have to negotiate the deal to protect what we want, but it will be a negotiation freed from these particular threats.

      If I am trying to steal your money and I have your mother and daughter hostage, then you are worried about your mother and daughter. But once I release the hostages, now we are only going to negotiate over your money.  The Republicans have nothing left to negotiate with but the whole show. They can't single out progressive constituencies for special harms.

      The only thing required for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing.

      by DavidMCastro on Tue Jan 01, 2013 at 07:36:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  one other thought... (0+ / 0-)

      Defense counts to the Republicans.. and that is on the table as part of the sequester. That is big leverage that remains. The defense contractors have a lot of skin in this game.

      The only thing required for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing.

      by DavidMCastro on Tue Jan 01, 2013 at 07:37:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Let's see. (0+ / 0-)

    1. Define your own positive terms of reference and negative definitions.
    2. Label your political opponents using said definitions.
    3. Blame your political opponents (using said labels) for not facilitating the positive TOR.
    4. Fail debating class.

    •  Hmmm (0+ / 0-)

      The process you have outline describes most of political behavior.

      The only thing required for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing.

      by DavidMCastro on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 03:11:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not for honest critical thinkers and advocates. nt (0+ / 0-)
        •  So... (0+ / 0-)

          I guess you just defined your own terms of reference, "honest critical thinkers and advocates," and then labeled your opponent (me) with them, blaming him for not facilitating the terms!

          We can't escape using metaphors to understand what is happening in the world. The only way we have to understand anything is to compare it to something else we are familiar with. We can have a meta-argument about whether the metaphors add meaning and value, but there is no approach that doesn't begin with defining what we think is good and bad and then using that understanding within the conversation.

          The only thing required for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing.

          by DavidMCastro on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 11:38:05 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

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