Not only do attempts to reach a grand bargain not work, they insure that negotiations will fail. We have been working under the assumption that Republicans want to cut Social Security and Medicare, and will eventually try to force a deal to do so. If so then what do we make of this:
"CPI has to be off the table because it's not a winning argument to say benefits for seniors versus tax breaks for rich people," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). "We need to take CPI off the table -- that's not part of the negotiations -- because we can't win an argument that has Social Security for seniors versus taxes for the rich.”Huffington Post
It looks like the Republicans aren't as insane as we think they are. Sure, there is a vocal minority of the party that want to drown government in a bathtub. The majority though is not stupid. Cutting social security, especially a cut that would take effect soon, would harm old white people. This represents the last major constituency of the GOP. The "why is my paycheck smaller" thing we're seeing today, and I suspect we will see more of in coming days, shows that most Americans aren't really paying attention until something shows up in their day to day lives. I expect the same thing holds true for seniors. A majority if the Republicans in the house would likely go for doing away with Pell Grants or WIC, but if old white people get a hit to the pocket book then the Republican Party will have some explaining to do.
The House Republican quandary is that anyone who tries to take social security off the table will face a primary from the right. Since they cannot say no, the only option is to cause Democrats to give up on a "grand bargain." This can be simply accomplished by refusing to compromise and continually shifting the goalposts. Eventually, any deal becomes so far to the right that somebody on the Democratic side, either the President, the Senate or possibly the House, shuts the thing down.
Not only will any attempt to reach a grand bargain fail, but trying to reach a grand bargain to head off a crisis ups the danger of the crisis happening. The Republican Party can't actually vote for what it wants. As a result they must place themselves in a position where a crisis forces them to abandon their agenda. On the other hand actually adopting their agenda would be so destructive for the party that they may even be willing to accept the results of a crisis to avoid doing so.
So what really worries me is a story like this:
The White House is eyeing a return to elements of a “grand bargain” it tried to reach late last year with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) as perhaps the best hope of defusing a fresh threat to the U.S. economy in just two months, according to people familiar with the discussions.Washington Post
If the White House decides to pursue a grand bargain in the debt limit talks it will not only betray the promises it has made - but will greatly increase the likelihood of a federal default. The Republican Party simply CANNOT accept a grand bargain on any terms. Attempting to negotiate one may well push the internal dynamics within the Republican conference to the point where no agreement becomes possible. There's always the Platinum coin, but we should probably avoid that if we can.