“Republicans in Congress have two choices here: They can act responsibly, and pay America’s bills; or they can act irresponsibly, and put America through another economic crisis. But they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy.” - Barack ObamaObama's failure at negotiating with the GOP fiscal terrorists began with the 2011 Budget battle that gave us the Sequester, arguably long before.
It continued up to the fiscal cliff to start the year, which resulted in far less revenue increases than Obama proposed, and has resulted in hamstringing any more revenue increases in subsequent fiscal battles, and potentially indefinitely.
It continued up to the debt ceiling battle, which Obama won...by putting it off for another 3 months.
All of this was supposed to prevent the eventual Sequester. Look how that has played out.
Now, we have been served with a dish of Obama proposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Call them what you want, but in the end they amount to entitlement cuts. These cuts are not only unpopular, but make no sense, and they go against the promises on which Obama campaigned.
Obama's negotiations with the GOP economic hostage-takers have been an utter failure.
A question that keeps coming to my mind is: Why are we negotiating again?
Right now, Democratic economic policy is on the defensive, while Republican economic policy-any spending cut is a good spending cut and any revenue increase is a bad increase-enjoys the privilege of the status quo. Rather than feeding into this-such as when Obama offers the GOP cuts to Social Security and Medicare, cuts that are in fact incredibly unpopular-Obama and the White House should be reframing the discussion so that the Republican policy is the one on the defensive. Obama should have put out a more progressive budget, more in line with the House Progressive Budget and more in line with his own self-professed policies on which he campaigned and on which he was popularly elected. And then the onus would be on the Republicans to attack proposals that are actually more in line with the public opinion.
The Republicans should have to defend every single spending cut that they want, at every step. Spending cuts, after all, imply that the government is providing less services to the country. How is it that we've gotten to the point where government spending on the people its governing has become a bad thing?
The Republicans should have to defend every tax cut for the wealthy. Tax cuts should be considered spending, except unlike any other spending, tax cuts cost the country double-both the taxes that go uncollected and the taxes that have to replace the vacuum created by the cuts.
Obviously fiscal policy is complex and since revenue is not infinite, meaningful discussion is necessary at all times to decide how much to collect and spend and who should get how much. And it is true that in the real world, Democrats and Republicans alike must be able to set aside their ideals for the sake of a better country, even if their ideas of what a better country is are incompatible. But when one side refuses to cooperate to the extent that one side will cave to their demands and then they still refuse to make a deal, they are betraying all the civilization, modernization, illumination, and potential that this country represents. They are saying they want to drag us back to the stone age, and the last thing we should be doing is continuing to listen to their birdbrained demands.
Love it or hate it, the United States is a capitalist country. And the United States has shown that when the economy is running well, accomplishing great things becomes possible. One need only look at what was accomplished during WWII, when the entirety of the country was dedicated to the war effort. But the government, and in extension the people, must always guide the economy to serve the needs of the country, the common good. Otherwise, left to its own devices, the economy becomes a parasite, draining its host-the middle class and workers and consumers and investors-of all its vitality and potential.
A strong, functioning, well-funded government is the backbone of any civilized society, and as human beings, we are living proof that civilized, cooperative society is in everyone's interests. The Republicans and Randians have made their bread selling the idea that people should look only toward their self-interests and any contributions to a common goal are a waste. However, this is at best a short-sighted and simplistic view, and ignores history and reason. If this were the case, people would never have formed large non-blood related coexisting and cooperating communities. We would not have language, or social customs, or bartering and currency. Even our most primitive ancestors recognized that building a whole society where people shared the fruits of their labor was far more beneficial than being isolated. The point is, society is not about denying the human drive to serve our self-interests, society is proof that the best way to serve our self-interests is to combine all the resources and energy that we have available.
By offering spending cuts on programs that are both popular and proven to improve the quality of life for a large percentage of Americans, not only does Obama set a terrible precedent that leaves Democrats at a tactical disadvantage to Republicans, not only does he betray the people who originally supported him while likely failing to sway most of the people who opposed him, but he betrays the very heart of Progressives; that America should always seek to improve as a civilized society.
As horrible as Obama's actions have been up until now, there is still opportunity to repair that damage. Unlike Republicans, who will either blindly follow what their leaders will say and do or whine and pound their chests like crazed toddlers to get their way, we should be more than willing to not only acknowledge Obama's mistakes but also hold him accountable if he refuses to learn from and rectify those mistakes. Some would say this moment has long since passed, but as the more reasonable party, we should always be willing to embrace sincere attempts at redemption, not only redeeming the good graces of his supporters, but redeeming a hopeful future.
Fortunately, Obama still has one of those opportunities. Even after hearing the decision from Obama to include these cuts, House Republicans have decided to still reject those proposals. Obama now has the chance to introduce a new budget, one that's more Progressive and removes the cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Since the Republicans rejected that deal, it gives Obama the leverage to say those cuts are clearly unrelated to a Republican deal. Republicans would then have the unenviable task of arguing why Obama should include those cuts in the first place. Some would argue that now that these cuts have been offered, it makes it far more difficult for Obama to take them off the table. To this I say: since when does negotiating mean something on the table is never subject to being pulled from the table? And also: if I had to choose between the GOP taking a deal that included these cuts, or the GOP continuing to refuse to make any deal because these cuts were removed from negotiation, I think the latter is far easier for Obama to defend and far harder for the GOP to defend.
If Obama does do this, maybe it will finally send the message that America refuses to negotiate with fiscal terrorists.
Edit: Removed second to last paragraph which I think takes away from the larger argument. See Comment section.