Cliffs and Political Reality
The United States is broke. So broke that Mark Steyn calls it the “brokest nation in history”. Yesterday, Congress decided to act with all the power it could muster to end this “long national nightmare”. For two months.
Let that sink in for a bit.
Congress is faced with a problem it created. What does it decide to do in response? It kicks the can down the road for another two months. About the same time that has passed from election day until today.
Does the deal address the problem? No, it’s not even a start.
Republican grassroots and conservatives across the country immediately took to social media to voice their displeasure with the deal. They were joined by members of Congress who voted against it. One of them, Representative LaTourette, described the deal as “a package put together by a bunch of sleep-deprived octogenarians.”
Who can blame them for being angry and disappointed? The deal is far from what they expected, and much worse than other ideas (like Plan B). The anger is understandable. The United States is heading for “more broke” and Congress has done nothing to address that problem.
Those of us who follow politics, and merely comment on events that are taking place, often forget that our representatives have to act according to political reality and not just according to principle. At times, that means that they will have to make tough decisions that are bound to upset even their most loyal supporters.
This time, taxes were scheduled to go up, and Republicans on Capitol Hill all scrambled to find ways that would prevent that from happening. Here’s Yuval Levin:
Those who think that opposing any deal would have somehow created the conditions for Republicans to insist on reinstating all the Bush tax rates after they expired have a far higher opinion of the backbone of Republican leaders than I do. But that’s a prudential debate about how, as the minority party in Washington focused on keeping taxes and spending down, to minimize the harm of a uniquely bad set of circumstances. Maybe Republicans did that, maybe they could have done a little better, but they probably couldn’t have done much better.
We should also remember that the Democrats on the other side of the aisle seem to be completely incapable of grasping the magnitude of the nation’s fiscal woes. If the White House truly cared about averting tax increases and reducing the deficit there would have been a concerted effort after the election to craft a bargain. Instead we have witnessed backroom dealing, posturing in front the television cameras, press conferences where the President antagonizes his opponents, and so on.
The silver lining that Republicans can take away from this fight is that Democrats fought to make large chunks of the Bush Tax Cuts permanent. They are now the new normal and Republicans will not have to face another “expiration date”.
Moving forward, there is now about as much time to the next “deadline” as there was from election day until today. Raise your hand if you think the White House will engage in fair negotiations and not in the same ridiculous posturing that we’ve just witnessed.
It is up to the Republican Party to force the Democrats to dance. The conditions for that should be better in a fight over the debt ceiling, but will require skillful maneuvering by the Republican leadership and a much better communications strategy with the public.