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When House Speaker John Boehner and his legion of absolutists complain that the Democratic-controlled Senate and President Obama are refusing to negotiate on a deal to end the impending super-sequester, our political system truly has wandered through an Alice in Wonderland mirror into the nonsensical.

Because, very clearly it's the GOP that's refusing to negotiate.

To augment a line from the film "Cool Hand Luke," what we have here is a willful failure to communicate. And politicians refusing to deal is like pandas refusing to eat bamboo. Deal-making, for all its pluses and minuses, is integral to the DNA of a functioning representative government. But now, Republicans want to toss all that out, reshaping the country as an authoritarian society where a well-heeled minority gets to make all the important decisions.

More below the fold.

The Democratic stance in the sequester fight is this: We're willing to negotiate on details of a package that includes spending cuts and tax increases. The Republican stance is this: We're not willing to negotiate anything but spending cuts. Of course, if both sides were now to agree that accepting the GOP approach were the way to move forward, it would, from the Democratic point of view, amount to total capitulation.

After all, a deal that only involved spending cuts would necessarily savage Social Security, Medicare and most domestic, discretionary programs. But far more important, such a deal would mean no deal and no negotiation at all, because the GOP already knows what it wants, and everyone (even the GOP) knows that what it wants is non-negotiable. Call the Department of Tautology Department, immediately!

But, it's the Democratic Party that's unwilling to negotiate? Righhhhhhhht.

This is just the latest version of a scam the Repubs have been running since Bush II, namely: Let's both parties negotiate a deal in which Democrats make all the compromises and agree to agree entirely with our pre-stated position. If we don't get everything we want -- and perhaps even if we do! -- there will be no deal. "Compromise" is defined downward to mean only that Republicans expect Democrats to completely compromise their own positions, without any budge on the right, except perhaps further retreat rightward.

The bigger issue here -- which has been largely overlooked -- is that Republicans now are the key instrument effecting "diasaster capitalism" -- so well defined by Naomi Klein in her book, "The Shock Doctrine." Disaster capitalism is when special interests  deliberately invite crisis and then seek to profit from it at the expense of many innocents. It is, in essence, political blackmail: In order to save ourselves from the effects of their decisions, we are told we must agree to screw ourselves, in ways dictated by the self-same perpetrators of our misery. This is authoritarianism writ large and has nothing at all to do with the tenets of a democracy or a republic.

So, we're going to have the sequestration, and unless the GOP relents soon after it begins, automatic federal budget cuts are going to cause a new recession. The key thing is Republicans seem fine with that outcome (except, of course, that they think the military spending cuts in the sequestration would wreck the country -- as a party, the GOP is now performing in a re-make of, "The Man With Two Brains").

On the surface, both the GOP and the Democratic Party agreed in crafting the sequester that its effects would be too horrible for either party to actually sanction -- a sort of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) gambit like the one the USA and USSR played with nuclear weapons during the Cold War. Trouble is, back in the Cold War both sides truly believed in MAD, but now, in the case of the sequester, it's obvious Republicans were only posturing when they said refusing to avert sequestration was unthinkable.

In blaming Obama for creating the sequester in the first place (when it was clearly a bipartisan invention), Republicans are making much of a recent Bob Woodward column in the Washington Post. Woodward wrote that the final sequestration deal reached in 2011 between Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell included an agreement that there would be no tax increases in the sequestration package.

However, as Beverly Mann over at Angry Bear duly notes, that deal obliged both sides to develop an actual list of budget changes that would avert the sequester. A bipartisan congressional super committee failed to achieve that alternative. When that effort died, the negotiations returned to the purview of the entire Congress and president. The original deal, as Mann noted, "did not, of course, include an agreement that there would be no tax increases in the final agreement to replace sequester 18 months later."

Mann added:

If Bob Woodward really believes that Obama agreed in Aug. 2011 to cut the federal budget deficit by about $3 trillion (or whatever the figure is) almost entirely through cuts to (near-elimination of large parts of) the social safety net and other non-defense “discretionary” spending--and that is exactly what Woodward is claiming--then I want to offer to sell him a quitclaim deed to the Brooklyn Bridge.  
See her full piece at http://www.angrybearblog.com/...

In other words, the GOP blame-Obama game is all semantics. The only reason we have sequestration heading right at us right now is that Republicans wouldn't budge off their rigid positions the first time, and then the second time, and now the third time. But Obama's the one not willing to wheel and deal? All aboard the clue train, please.

Originally posted to Ron Legro on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 10:11 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  riegro - if we accept the idea that the GOP (0+ / 0-)

    wants to reduce the rate of growth of federal government spending why would they swap spending reductions for tax increases? While the GOP does not like the defense spending reductions, I think they realize that the sequester is the only chance they will have to reduce spending without having to put any revenue increases on the table. There is the possibility that some larger deal, that includes the sequester cuts, will be included in the March negotiations on a funding bill for the balance of F2013. We are weeks away from the federal government running out of spending authority.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 01:34:01 PM PST

    •  I don't think they're even that ambitious (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bunsk, NoMoreLies, jrooth, buckeyed

      At this point they're perfectly happy to settle for hammering home the message that government is dysfunctional - the soft bigotry of low expectations. They'll take cuts if they can get them, but if they can convince the American people to expect nothing good from government, that suits their long term goals perfectly. And that's what they'er really about.

      "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

      by xaxnar on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 09:47:29 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Since you mentioned MAD (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pat bunny

    Reminds me of a classic Rush quote ...

    The only way to reduce the number of nuclear weapons is to use them.” ~ Rush Limbaugh

    Sort of optimizes GOP thinking.

    In a capitalist democracy - every dollar is a "vote" ... spend wisely ...

    by RUNDOWN on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 05:34:59 PM PST

  •  The GOP fears no reprisals (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fou, Bourbaki, milkbone, NoMoreLies, buckeyed

    The Tea Party's base is an unshakable ClusterFox of hard right crazies.  It doesn't matter if their rep is technically at fault for not negotiating in good faith; they will get reelected by their base in their newly gerrymandered districts.

    The GOP may yet blink, but I think most of the Tea Party lunatics think they have nothing to lose.  Just stop short of talking about rape...

    The scene on November 6, midnight: Barack Obama holds up newspaper reading "Romney defeats Obama" as he heads to give his second term acceptance speech.

    by alkatt on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 05:48:15 PM PST

    •  I'm liking that word "clusterfox" :) (0+ / 0-)
    •  They THINK that's what it is (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NoMoreLies

      I think they're going to be surprised.

      This will impact the right wing crazies too. They're not going to like their kids or grandkids not getting help with college. They're not going to be happy when they call the cops and it takes them longer to get there. Or when they have a court date rescheduled because the court is even more overloaded than it was. Or they get thrown off unemployment.

      They're not going to be happy when the parks are closed, or they get stuck in the airport, or when food prices go up or the border patrols get cut or there's another outbreak of food borne disease and recalls don't go out fast enough.

      This WILL affect their base, and they're not going to like it.

      Those Congressmembers are in for a world of hurt next time they go home... it's not going to be pretty.

  •  And to paraphrese another movie "I do not think (0+ / 0-)

    you mean by "negotiation" what you think you mean."

    I'd tip you but they cut off my tip box. The TSA would put Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad on the no-fly list.

    by OHdog on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 06:45:53 PM PST

  •  Fasten your seatbelts, folks (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mmacdDE, Justus, NoMoreLies, Demosthenes

    we're in for a bumpy ride.
    I wonder how the Red State folks are going to deal with this. Since most Red States receive more Federal money than they kick in, it stands to reason that they will suffer more from sequestration than the Blue States that kick in more. So the Republicans' base will take more of a hit than the Dems', at least on paper.
    At that point, it becomes a perception game: How the local media and pols play it.
    Personally, I want them to feel the pain, to get the full brunt of their p!sspoor decision in the voting booths for the past several cycles. I know that's harsh and heartless, but it's been their reps and their reps' agenda that are causing massive pain nationwide.
    Unfortunately, the media/political bubble that created this havoc will find a way to bamboozle these fools into believing that it's all that black fella's fault.
    Even here at the GOS, the Blame-the-Dems train is rolling.
    Unbefreakinglievable!

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 06:56:54 AM PST

  •  Nancy Pelosi just said they were (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies

    becoming a drive by congress.

      Who do these people think they are?  If I left my job the day before a deadline
    and the job not done...I would not have a job when I went back to work.   i have an idea....Let's stop paying congress ..FIRST

    We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

    by Vetwife on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 07:19:25 AM PST

    •  Not the first one.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Justus, NoMoreLies

      ...to suggest that a really effective sequestration (as if sound fiscal policy truly required one at al) would be to sequester congressional salaries until a deal was approved and signed into law.

      In my darker moments, I think the GOP is being foolish to avoid a deal, since once fiscal matters generally are perceived as "fixed" they can once again try to posture their way into power as Bush II did on the back of Clinton's surplus the implicit message being that the nation can now afford the risk of letting the GOP be completely in charge. And then they can once again start ratcheting up federal deficits with their multi-giveaways and foolish, unbudgeted military adventurism, and after that blame it all on the Democratic administration that is elected to clean up their mess.

  •  Rachel gave a great overview last night (5+ / 0-)

    Since Jan of 2011, when the 2010 bat shit crazy Congress came in, they have fabricated a financial crisis every few months. They truly have no interest in actual governing. They have made sure that there is a constant feeling of insecurity and that all problems are blamed on President Obama for "failing to nogotiate".

    "Seed corn. It's what's for dinner!" Republican philosophy of governance

    by madame damnable on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 07:33:56 AM PST

  •  As Richard Mourdock explained... (0+ / 0-)

    "Bipartisanship is getting Democrats to agree with 100% of Republicans positions."

  •  Republicans will only negotiate with... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Helena Pedestrian, NoMoreLies

    "legitimate" partners - and that's not what they consider Democrats of any kind. In fact, negotiation is the wrong word. Consider the mechanics of give and take instead, as practiced by the GOP.

    What they mean by give and take is they give the orders and everyone else has to take them. Conversely, everyone else has to give, and they get to take. That's how they roll, and it's amazing how often they succeed.

    It's about time the media started calling these people out for the thugs and terrorists they really are.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 09:44:43 AM PST

    •  I agree (sort of) (0+ / 0-)

      Democrats need to call these people out for the thugs and terrorists they really are.  The media isn't going to do it for them.  I think if Democrats had called the republicans out for the hostage taking, refused to negotiate, and made the progressive cases that spending cuts are destructive, the deficit and debt aren't the problem, and the government needs to increase aid to states and direct hiring they would certainly have got the attention of the media.

      The media would have been incredulous but it would have given the Dems the chance to make their case to the public.  And the public largely agrees with the progressive positions.  Unfortunately the Democrats and Obama haven't fought for progressive ideals.  They've negotiated with the hostage takers at every turn.  And they continue to cave to the Republican framing.

      If I hear one more Republican state unchallenged that "everyone knows we have to cut spending" I'm going to punch something.  No, everyone does not know that.  Why won't journalists question this assertion.  Why must we cut spending immediately when government borrowing costs are and have been historically low?  Why must we cut spending when nearly every economist says it will result in job losses and a possible return to recession?  Why must we cut spending when spending as a share of GDP is not out of line with historical norms?  But not once have I heard these questions asked.  

      •  As Digby points out (0+ / 0-)

        The President keeps talking about making cuts. All the 'Serious' people do.

        "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

        by xaxnar on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 06:12:17 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  What are the GOPTers referring to here? (0+ / 0-)

    Because I'm not up to speed on the prior bill that kicked this can to the point it currently lies....

    The common GOP retort to the charge that they ONLY want CUTS to address deficit reduction is that "Nobama got his tax increases in the last bill".  What specifically r they referring to? The expiration of the Bush tax cuts?  

    •  That's it. (0+ / 0-)

      Apparently, if you're a Democratic president or lawmaker, you only get to end egregious one tax cut benefiting the rich, and then only partially to the extent you sought. Whereas Republicans should get everything they want, and they get to reload their demands ad infinitum. Think they won't come back at some point and ask for another tax cut on the rich? They've already begun!

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