By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

This is what compromise looks like

I can’t go to Twitter or Facebook without being bombarded by angry messages from fellow liberals that President Obama and congressional Democrats sold out the country in the debt-limit deal, and that this is capitulation rather than compromise.

I explained yesterday why the deal was inevitable, so I won’t go there again. For today, a simple question: If this is capitulation, why did 66 House Republicans vote no? In fact, this is compromise — an ugly compromise in which Obama was whipsawed between conservative Republicans and extreme right-wingers. But a compromise nevertheless.

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  1. Matt Kelly

    It was a compromise between the Tea Party and the Republican Party. It was not a compromise between Republicans and Obama because Obama got nothing he wanted.

  2. But Dan:

    1) Dems were evenly split- literally: 95 for/95 against. Yes, 66 Republicans voted against, but 174 voted for. That says to me that more Republicans felt like they were getting what they wanted.

    2) John Boehner would seem to agree. He feels that he got 98% of what he wanted.

    Unless it’s really true that he and Obama really weren’t that far apart to begin with. Then the compromise took place long before this debate, possibly in 2008.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Deb: Show me a bill that would be more to your liking (and mine) that also could have passed the House. There isn’t one. Fortunately, most of the cuts have been put off until after the election. Guess what Democrats have to do?

  3. Dan, at this moment I can’t create one. But my point is that this while I’m going to reluctantly that this bill or something like it was inevitable if we wanted to make our deadline, I don’t agree that this was an even compromise (and I’ll also admit that you didn’t say even). One side got more than the other out of this.

    We can argue about capitulation- we didn’t have to accept a Balanced Budget Amendment, but we didn’t get new revenues. However, they didn’t end up touching Pell Grants, so maybe there’s something :-/

  4. Mike Benedict

    Look, in one respect, this bill is a masterstroke for Obama. The cuts it makes to Medicare and Medicaid are enormous. Anyone using psychological services, for example, might be out of luck in a year — that’s how draconian the cuts are. MGH has already assembled a team to contemplate axing entire departments.

    We saw how badly the GOP paid when the aging (and voting) population were made aware of the threat of medical services cuts. This bill isn’t a threat — it actually cuts those services. The Democrats have been handed the brass ring, and their entire marketing strategy for 2012.

  5. Stephen Stein

    Boehner says he “got 98% of what he wanted.”

    JP Morgan says: “Impending fiscal drag for 2012 remains intact. The deal does nothing to extend the various stimulus measure which will expire next year: we continue to believe federal fiscal policy will subtract around 1.5%-points from GDP growth in 2012.”

    Since our growth rate is already down around the 1.5% mark or below, we get a double dip recession out of the debt deal.

    Nice compromising! We all get screwed and Obama gets the blame!

  6. Stephen Stein

    Hey, and the Republican Hostage Strategy cost us $1.7B. So far.

    It’s Obama’s fault, no doubt.

  7. Mike Benedict

    Geez, Stephen, you don’t think Boehner would maybe be lying a little?

  8. Stephen Stein

    @Mike – Ordinarily, my knee’s reflexes being as they are, I’d initially assume any Boehner utterance is a lie. But then I look for evidence. In this case, I find nothing convincing me that Boehner isn’t telling the truth, strange as that may seem.

  9. Dan, are you seriously wondering why 66 House Repubs didn’t vote for the bill? THAT’S a signal it was a compromise?

    Eyeballing the list of Repub no votes, I see only 6 that aren’t completely bat $h!t crazy, ready to run the country into a wall because the extent of their understanding of the economy comes from Junior Achievement.

    One of the no votes said he wouldn’t negotiate because dealing with Obama was like touching a “tar baby”. Based on the racist comments we’ve heard directed at Obama by some legislators the past 2 years, do you think that sentiment is an outlier?

    Why has it been so hard for some people to admit it: Obama negotiated against himself and still lost.

    Not surprising. A great story in the recent book about his mother highlights why Obama doesn’t get it. When he was living in Indonesia he was regularly bullied, often to the point of rocks being thrown at him (literally). What did Barry do? Nothing. Turned the other cheek and kept on smiling, which his mother taught him.

    I voted for and support Obama, but I can’t deny what I see in front of my eyes. He’s turned out to be kind of a tool.

  10. Michael Corcoran

    I don’t think those 66 House Republicans would not vote YAY on anything that didn’t jail all poor/old people.

  11. Dan Storms

    I hate the bloody song, but reading your piece, Dan, about how this was a compromise because it was the only thing Obama could get past the Tea Party House, I couldn’t help hearing Richard Kiley singing “The Impossible Dream.” It’s one thing to accept a half (a quarter? the moldy heel?) a loaf if you fought bravely and well for your position against an unbeatable foe. It’s another thing altogether to give away the fight, as Obama did back in December when he refused to even try to attach the debt ceiling to extension of the Bush tax cuts, and then be a punching bag for a tiny minority of one-third of the government triumvirate. Jeebus Christmas, Obama was less gutsy as well as less effective than Bleeding Chuck Wepner against Muhammad Ali. And at least Wepner had a truly dominant foe. Obama allowed himself to be held hostage by these House clowns because he wasn’t all that opposed to the spending cuts, which most economists expect will help tank the economy into recession again, besides hurting the poor, the sick, and the old. Maybe it’s easier to stage these useless exercises in compromise than attack the real foes–joblessness, the home ownership nightmare, fixing his badly flawed health care reform, Wall Street Corruption, and the increasing stranglehold the oligarchs have on a tired, depressed, and cowed nation.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Dan: I don’t have a link handy, but I’ve read that Obama wanted to deal with the debt ceiling last December, and Harry Reid talked him out of it. Reid’s brilliant idea was that he could make the Republicans look bad by forcing a confrontation.

  12. Eric Morro

    Debt is just an unpopular issue for Democrats. Unfortunately it represents their only economic growth strategy. They are just really slammed. They believed their own polls which said that the country wants tax increases, and that was akin to reading your own propaganda. It’s dangerous and leads you to mistaken conclusions.

  13. Brad Deltan

    Reid would’ve been right, if Obama had something more than the negotiating skills of a wet noodle. Silly Harry, he assumed Obama had a spine!

  14. Aaron Read

    @ Eric Morro: What the hell are you talking about? I can’t think of any Democrat that’s saying taxes need to be raised EXCEPT for the “tax the rich” mantra. And virtually EVERY poll is showing 65-80% of the country in favor of “taxing the rich”.

    Granted, while the income inequality is out of control in the US, and the completely screwed up tax system is a major part of that…taxing the rich alone won’t solve the problem in any way. Well, I suppose it’d help the national zeitgeist and that is an important factor in restoring national confidence (a significant, but not only, reason for lackluster job growth). But even Paul Krugman will admit that in raw dollars, taxing the rich won’t cover the deficits.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Aaron: That’s why we need to repeal all the Bush tax cuts — not now, but after the economy has started to recover. (Which it won’t, thanks to the shenanigans of the past week.)

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