In a city renowned for the quantity and quality of its political spectacles, the upcoming debt supercommittee hearings might be the most superficial waste of time in the history of Washington. I've said enough about why and the extent to which I do not care about this – the predetermined outcome, the mindless rhetoric, the heavy, ponderous chin-stroking in the media, and many other common features of our kabuki theater politics – and I hoped to leave it at that. But to underscore the "predetermined outcome" part, consider the initial proposal made by the Democratic members of the committee:

The new deficit-reduction plan from a majority of Democrats on the congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the “supercommittee”) marks a dramatic departure from traditional Democratic positions — and actually stands well to the right of plans by the co-chairs of the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson commission and the Senate’s “Gang of Six,” and even further to the right of the plan by the bipartisan Rivlin-Domenici commission. The Democratic plan contains substantially smaller revenue increases than those bipartisan proposals while, for example, containing significantly deeper cuts in Medicare and Medicaid than the Bowles-Simpson plan. The Democratic plan features a substantially higher ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases than any of the bipartisan plans.

The Democratic plan contains $92 billion more in Medicare and Medicaid cuts ($475 billion) than Bowles-Simpson ($383 billion), and the same or a greater amount of cuts in this area than the Gang of Six plan.

At the same time, the Democratic plan contains $800 to $900 billion less in revenue increases than the Bowles-Simpson and Gang of Six plans.

Remember, this is the initial proposal. The starting point. Whatever they finally pass will of course be far to the right of this. So what we'll end up with is a policy outcome to the right of a proposal that is to the right of the previous sham "bipartisan" committee's recommendations that were already to the right of center. Say what you will about the modern Democratic Party, but they sure know how to fire up their base.

For the life of me I cannot fathom their strategy here. It appears to be yet another round of "If we start negotiating by offering a thousand huge concessions up front, surely the GOP will negotiate in good faith." Yes, and surely Charlie Brown will kick that football this time. Of course the Republicans have already summarily rejected this proposal as Insufficiently Austere, thus we are assured of dozens more concessions in the next few weeks to produce a final bill that they will vote against anyway.

Once again the strategy, if any, being employed by the Democrats is a mystery to me. They continue to punt the talking point, "The GOP wanted to screw you and we opposed them," in favor of, "The GOP wanted to screw you and we proposed that they screw you slightly less, and then we settled on you getting screwed but with some lube and a Wendy's Frosty afterward." Who is the voter that they believe this approach will win over? Who do they envision responding positively to this inexorable march to the right, which not only eliminates the Democrats as a legitimate alternative to the GOP but also drives the already dangerously extreme GOP base even further rightward?

Obama and his party were successful in 2008. To repeat that in 2012, they're banking on the existence a few hundred million voters, contributors, and volunteers in the electorate who will get really fired up to support a Democratic Party so completely sold out to moneyed interests that its policy positions have outflanked the Republican Party of the 1980s on the right. For their sake I hope these voters exist, or else this very curious strategy is going to have to appeal to the same voters, contributors, and volunteers who put them over the top in 2008.

Good luck with that. But hey, I bet Jamie Dimon loves it. Isn't that what matters?

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38 thoughts on “STRATEGO”

  • Middle Seaman says:

    Obama's super committee is bad for everyone. During the Bush presidency the Democrats repeatedly did W's dirty work. They actually loved the wars, the lowering taxes on the rich, the patriot act and, in particular, the rich. When the Democratic left selected Obama, they have killed the party and they knew exactly where he is going.

    We have one party only with a handful of diehards still representing Democrats. The predetermined right wing solution is a worse disaster than Obama. Austerity has killed Ireland and Greece, Latvia and Estonia. Such an outcome leaves destruction for decades; it's not just a mega Tarp.

    We are down to the Churchillian choice: Obama is a disaster and the GOP is a catastrophe.

  • Hmm…it's almost as if…bear with me here. It's like our "multi-party" system only represents one class of people. It's like, a…dictatorship for that class, and no matter who we vote for, the results will be more or less the same.

  • "One party is crazy" full stop. & We are reduced to One Party. Please remind me again why we are playing this game?

  • Black Agenda report pegged the situation perfectly. In order to move to the right, the right has to move further. Obviously if Clinton or Obama did what they did and the GOP expressed satisfaction of any kind, the game would be ruined. It would be clear that these parties work for the same interests. On the other hand, when they move to the right and the right calls them Communists, the whole system can shift ever rightward, while real leftists are pushed beyond the pale of political discourse.

  • Ivan Ivanovich Renko says:

    I'll believe you when I see that benefits cuts are on the table, rather than simply generic cuts to SS and Medicare.

    Cuts to providers as a part of reducing health care costs in general might not be the worst thing that could happen.

    More data, si'l vous plait. Otherwise you sound as oblivious to subtlety as any 'conservative.'

  • I live in the DC area. I socialize with several people professionally associated with the Democratic Party: staffers, aides, and so forth. I have asked all of them if they can explain the trend Ed outlines above, and I have asked them what the strategy is. They don't have any kind of answer. They only light up when I suggest there's no substantial difference between the parties; when I do, they get this haunted look, and say something like "Oh, there is. You really don't understand just how far to the right the Republicans are going."

    I think Ed has made this particular comparison before, but watching the two parties at play in Washington these days reminds me of Group Captain Mandrake, locked in the office with General Ripper, desperately going along with his crazy talk about bodily fluids while trying to wheedle the recall codes from him.

  • > Of course the Republicans have already summarily rejected this proposal as Insufficiently Austere, thus we are assured of dozens more concessions in the next few weeks to produce a final bill that they will vote against anyway.

    Exactly. And the talking point, as will go out in flyers delivered to voters' homes during the election campaign, will be: "The Democrats wanted to screw you but we voted to save Social Security and Medicare. Vote Republican!"

    And that talking point will be hard to argue against, because it will be true.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    The Democrats tell people, "Look, those Republican Corporate-backed sharks want to get in power so they can eat you with their rows of razor-sharp teeth. If you put our Democratic Corporate-backed sharks in power, we promise we'll gum you to death slowly."

    A reminder, Democrats:
    Unconditional surrender is NOT a bargaining position.
    Ball-less putz's.

  • Paul Sherrard says:

    Since the demise of Labor, both parties serve the same master. This new reality is embarrassing to one of the parties, and it has some minor reasons for trying to hide it or ignore it away, but its efforts to do so grow increasingly transparent and unconvincing. There's no other explanation for the Democrats' behavior.

  • @Sherrard: Look at the Democrats' donors. Like Obama himself, aren't congresspeople financed often by the same corporations that finance the opposition? Corporations seem to contribute more heavily to whichever incumbent or challenger they think has the best chance of winning. Tell me I'm wrong. This explains nebbishy behavior by representatives of the People's Party no matter what the official bloviation.

    I thought it was Swift, but I guess I have to credit P.J. O'Rourke for the phrase "parliament of whores." It keeps recurring to me. That, and "confederacy of dunces." Which is, in fact, Swift. The latter can't control the former, i.e., the dunces can't control the whores. Unless they get smart, and that ain't likely.

  • The Democrats can safely propose anything that they want as long as they tie it to any tax increases on the rich. They know the republicans cannot accept them.

    Sorry Ed, you're wrong on this. Obama is using higher taxes on the rich as a crucial plank in his re-election campaign, and the Republicans will never agree to it. So instead of "selling out" the Dems are trying to act as Mr. Reasonable for the disengaged – with no risk of having to engineer an actual compromise.

    The Dems don't actually have to agree to anything from this committee, as any cuts take place in 2013. That's a different dynamic than defaulting on the debt.

  • All I can say is the the Repubs were right: The Dems ARE the party of Surrender Monkeys. They were just wrong about the reasons for calling them so….

  • "…when I suggest there's no substantial difference between the parties…they get this haunted look, and say something like "Oh, there is. You really don't understand just how far to the right the Republicans are going.""

    Which is exactly why the Democrats should be going that much further in the OPPOSITE direction – so that way the "middle" stays in the actual middle.

    I don't get it, I really don't.

  • @Marc: "Obama is using higher taxes on the rich as a crucial plank in his re-election campaign"

    Yes, that's it. The last four years have all been a prelude.

    Estragon: He should be here.

    Vladimir: He didn't say for sure he'd come.

    Estragon: And if he doesn't come?

    Vladimir: We'll come back tomorrow.

    Estragon: And then the day after tomorrow.

    Vladimir: Possibly.

  • I think this is a reflection of the Obama strategy of saying "We tried to work with them, but they refused." And, "We bent over backwards…"

    My great-grandma, who had a picture of Jesus next to her picture of FDR, used to say "kill them with kindness."

  • I'm not voting for Obama in 2012. I'll write in Russ Feingold. If Obama loses to an insane sociopathic Republican, so what? The only difference will be rhetoric. The insane sociopathic Republican will scream for endless war and more tax cuts for the rich and an expanded War On Brown People (Drug War/War on Terror) and more erosion of the Bill of Rights and more assassinations of U.S. citzens without charging them with a crime or giving 'em a trial.

    Obama won't call for those policies, but we will implement 'em. He already has.

  • ConcernedCitizen says:

    "Who is the voter that they believe this approach will win over? Who do they envision responding positively to this inexorable march to the right…?"

    This is just a shot in the dark, but I would guess: the people who fund their campaigns, send lobbyists to help them craft legislation, and offer them lucrative private sector jobs once they retire from government.

  • It should be amusing to watch the Balloon-Juice cultists explain how this is really brilliant strategy by Obama. Expect a frothing Angry Black Lady post denouncing you as a racist any moment now, followed by enraged snark from DougJ about how the scary GOP are much, much worse than the weak-tea (party) Democrats.

  • He's going to use the tax issue for the campaign, which means that he won't agree to anything that will undercut it.

    The people predicting that Obama will sell them out aren't deterred by evidence, of course. But all you need is the knowledge that his current rhetoric is setting up his campaign, and that rhetoric is not about grand compromises. It's about raising taxes on the rich and spending to create jobs.

    He's not talking about the deficit, or this committee. The people bitching here have a fantasy demon Obama in their heads and aren't listening to what the actual man is saying and doing. It's not surprising that they are so confident. They'll also repeat the same things through the election regardless of what really happens.

  • "The people predicting that Obama will sell them out aren't deterred by evidence, of course."

    Well, given that he closed Gitmo, ended the war in Afghanistan, reversed the Bush destruction of the environment, restored America's civil liberties, brought unemployment down to 5%, cancelled the Bush tax cuts…..

    Oh wait….

  • "When the republicans tried to screw you, we demanded that they take your trousers off first.

    When the Republicans refused, we agreed to hold you down so that you wouldn't hurt yourself in your struggling."

  • Morzer: as far as Gitmo is concerned, I suggest that you look up this word "Congress". You know, the people who prevented Gitmo from closing.

    On Afghanistan, I distinctly remember him promising to ramp up military forces there and withdrawing from Iraq. I notice you didn't mention that; I wonder why?

    Do you really think the president controls the unemployment rate? Did he ever promise to remove all of the Bush cuts?

    The failure is strong with this one.

  • West of the Cascades says:

    I'm with Marc on this one. The difference between previous negotiations where the Democrats started with a reasonable position and ended up in a far-right "compromise" was because the alternative was government failure (shutdown, default). Now the alternative is the default, across-the-board cuts, including the military – not great, but not as shitty as cutting only social programs.

    So there's more space here for a once-off "reasonable" proposal, a GOP outright rejection, and no more negotiating with the Democrats left holding the stronger political argument, but the federal government nonetheless continuing to function in the short term.

    And this could be completely wishful thinking on my part …

  • Marc, given that you can't deny Obama's numerous failures and evasions, why do you even bother trying to argue with people who are obviously more connected to reality than you? When are you going to wake up and realize that this White House isn't liberal in any meaningful sense of the word, that it's wasted three years on bipartisan surrender and that there is precisely one reason to vote for Obama – i.e. bad though this administration is, the GOP are batshit crazy? Given how hard we were sold the idea that Obama was going to be a liberal president.. well, let's just say that it's amusing to see Obama defended in terms of how powerless he is. When your argument comes down to the idea that Obama can't really be expected to do anything, it's time to wake up and smell the coffee. This administration's biggest achievement has been to reveal just how useless, corrupt and miserably inadequate the Democratic party now is.

  • Typical Obamabot rhetoric- blame congress. You know, the congress in which Democrats had a super-majority until fuck up after fuck up led to Republican victories in 2010?

    And the tax plan as part of his campaign is a major LULZ. Here you are using the excuse of congress to explain why he didn't close Gitmo(ever hear of an executive order?), and yet you expect us to believe that he'll get a tax hike through a congress which might have even MORE Republicans? Right.

    And isn't it interesting how any cuts aren't supposed to happen until 2013; you know, after the election? I'm sure that's just a coincidence, just like how his joke of a health care bill is supposed to take place in 2014, after he is reelected.

  • Oh, what's this I remember about Obama supporters saying they were going to "hold Obama accountable" after electing him(a fucking joke, since you don't have the power to hold any president accountable for anything)? Are you still planning to do that, or did a blinking light distract you?

  • Morzer: you made a series of accusations about the president that betrayed a complete misunderstanding of how our system works. The case of Gitmo is especially clear: you made an utterly ignorant claim about Obama and Gitmo,. Congress blocked closing Gitmo, and Obama proposed to close it. Your fact-free sneering doesn't obscure the fact that you were assigning blame to the wrong party, you were ignorant of the facts, and you're just trying to bluster at this point. I see the executive order bullshit being used here, in ignorance of the 97-3 congressional vote preventing it. Obama is not the same as the congress, and the latter can block things that the former wanted.

    Get out of the online left fishbowl. My point was not related to the strawmen that you're peddling. Republicans don't have the same leverage here that they did before. Obama also has to run a campaign for re-election, he has picked clear themes to use, and he isn't going to cut deals that would wreck his campaign strategy. You don't need anything more than that to know that he isn't going to abandon tax hieks on the rich.

    Arslan: stow the Naderite nonsense. Is "holding the president accountable" supposed to be the same as "being stupid and throwing my vote away"?

  • Marc, if you want to be a cheerleader, by all means dance around waving your pompoms and howl a few insults while you do. You've made no plausible defense of Obama and you've blatantly mis-stated what other people said in their critique of our milquetoast president and the pathetic Democratic party. You need to realize that it's mindless loyalty like yours that enables the rightward drift of Obama and the Democrats, grow up and stop making yourself into a cheap date. Think like a citizen and an American, not like some pathetic cultist. As long as Obama and the Democrats can pretend to be "nice" Republicans, so long they will do so. Obama needs to take responsibility for his screw-ups, rather than simply pretending he wasn't in the room.

  • What about his war on whistleblowers, Marc? Don't I remember campaign promises about "the most transparent administration ever?" Going after not only wikileaks, but their supporters? What about bringing charges against Bush administration officials for their blatantly unconstitutional measures? What about the drone attacks? What about the feds coming after medical marijuana? Yeah, he made noises about closing Gitmo, but we're still practicing extraordinary rendition.

    I could go on and on, but why bother? I never believed Obama was anything more than another bought and paid for corporate DLC Democrat, just like Hilary Clinton and her husband before her, so none of this is the least bit surprising to me.

  • Marc, I am as far from a Naderite as they are from you. Since you claim that "holding the president accountable" doesn't mean "throwing your vote away", please tell us WHAT that means then. I'd love to know.

    As for the rest of your bullshit, this proves exactly what I'm saying. The right moves to the right, Obama takes the ground they vacated, and then you try to make us real leftists look like kooks who want to live on a hippy commune. The next time a Republican wins, they are further to the right. A Democrat has to catch up to win next time, and the whole system moves ever rightward.

    Here's the skinny on Obama:

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