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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.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (0+ / 0-) From Dictatorship to Democracy, Guide to Non Violent Protests.

    by sdelear on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 08:41:45 PM PST

  •  Repubs want Democrats to Own Cuts to SS (0+ / 0-)

    While I agree that it the Republicans would lose support if the electorate understood that it is the only party wishing to cut the social safety net, their whole strategy is to muddle the message and get Democrats to own those cuts.  In the last presidential election, one of the key messages was that O cut $716 billion from medicare (when it was all about cutting costs), and gutted the work entitlement for welfare (a bold outright lie).  A Grand Bargain works for the Repubs especially if passed in a bi-partisan vote, as they will then claim the Democrats pushed for those cuts.   O did well in the negotiations on the fiscal cliff to expose the different factions within the Republican party where it is now apparent that some agree that the wealthy should pay their fair share and others want to have tax cuts for the rich at all costs.  But the O strategy for a Grand Bargain plays into the Repubs' hands.  O did in fact support chained CPI, as did Pelosi.  Democrats will live to regret the days spent on negotiating a Grand Bargain, as the MSM will not hold the Repubs accountable for their extreme positions as both parties will be portrayed as being to blame.

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