The word is, President Obama is still desirous of a Grand Bargain with the Republicans that will 'fix' Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and the rest of the Federal Budget once and for all. To that end he's offering up concessions like the Chained CPI, giving consideration to raising the retirement age, adding in means testing, etc. etc. - all to lure Republicans into some nominal tax increases and reforms. It's the 'skin in the game' strategy, the idea that if both sides are willing to give some ground on things that are near and dear to them to get things they both want, a compromise can be reached. But that assumes the compromise is worth the sacrifice.
President Obama really, Really needs to learn some lessons from Bill Clinton on how well that works out in practice. More below the Orange Omnilepticon.
If you didn't manage to get through the humongous diary I had up the other day laying out the Big Picture, one of the sections in it dealt with the Third Way, AKA Triangulation. If you scroll down the diary to the section titled "The Enabler in Chief and the Geometry of Betrayal", you'll find a discussion of the serious problems that follow from the Third Way approach. The most fundamental one is that you can't make an honest bargain with a crook.
See, the problem with the 'skin in the game approach' is that, if nothing else, somebody ends up getting skinned. Agreeing to a bad thing to get a good thing means you can be sure you'll get the bad thing - especially when your negotiating partners can't be trusted. And, you end up making the bad things legitimate - by agreeing to them, you own them.
Bill Clinton raised taxes but made concessions on safety net programs among other things, and thereby balanced the budget, actually created a surplus, and started paying down the national debt. Not a single Republican voted for the tax increases; they resisted them then and resist taxes today even though what followed from it is exactly what they claim to want. The Bush regime that followed Clinton cut taxes - and blew up the budget. But the concessions they'd won remained.
Charles P. Pierce has a couple of devastating indictments of Clinton's willingness to go along to get along (not that Republicans ever did), and the consequences that followed from triangulating for political advantage. Acts of Contrition lays out some belated mea culpas, including Clinton's Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). As Pierce notes:
Please to be giving me a break. DOMA was discriminatory 17 years ago. It was unconstitutional 17 years ago. It was an offense against human dignity 17 years ago. And Bill Clinton signed it simply to help himself defeat the pathetic candidacy of Robert Dole. (Let's not even get into the welfare "reform" bill he signed for the same reason.)An even greater indictment of the third way from Pierce comes out of the recent completely unnecessary deaths resulting from legislation Clinton signed off on, that led directly to the New England Compounding Company scandal. Contaminated drugs were packaged, sold and administered to unsuspecting patients, with at least 48 deaths so far and hundreds with ruined health. Clinton's acquiescence to GOP efforts to weaken FDA oversight in the name of free market ideology and deregulation had fatal results. But everyone knows compromise is a good thing, and we need it now, right? Pierce:
This, of course, is back during the Golden Age Of Bipartisanship, wherein everybody made nicey-nice to each other, and deals were cut that sold out gay people (DOMA), poor people (welfare reform), and all the while the Republicans tried to give the boot to the president with whom they were cutting all the deals, and most of the Democrats, looking to suck up that sweet corporate cash that was sluicing into the party through the DLC floodgates, went along for the ride. (Joe Scarborough, the Machiavelli of the live bait industry, cited this period just the other day as being altogether remarkable. Republicans were working with a president they were trying to impeach! Mirabile dictu!)...SNIP!
But the principle obtained — make a deal to make a deal, and the devil take the details. Now, almost 50 people are dead because Everyone Agrees that The Market will always be more efficient at doing things like picking up deadly fungal infections than the dead hand of government regulation will. Some day, we are going to have to count up the cost of The Third Way of the 1990's, and it is not going to be pretty.To "You can't make an honest bargain with a crook." let's add "Agree to a bad thing to get a good thing, you can be certain of getting the bad thing." The really scary thing about this is that the only thing preventing the President from making the Grand Bargain (AKA Great Betrayal) is the intransigence of the conservatives. To paraphrase an old saying about friends and enemies, with leadership like this, we need our enemies.