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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

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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