Thursday, November 24, 2011

Who Tricked Who?

Ezra Klein wonders how smart Republicans were when they talked Barack Obama into automatic spending cuts once the supercommittee failed:

Imagine if the Democrats offered Republicans a deficit deal that had more than $3 in tax increases for every $1 in spending cuts, assigned most of those spending cuts to the Pentagon, and didn't take a dime from Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare beneficiaries. Republicans would laugh at them. But without quite realizing it, that's the deal Republicans have now offered to the Democrats.

That outcome is not without huge risks. As Klein points out, in an already weak economy, the consequences could be dire. Still,

the Democrats are in the driver's seat. Gridlock means a deficit deal that they [the Democrats] could never have imagined getting any other way. Basic negotiating theory would suggest that whatever the Republicans offer them must somehow be better even than that. And yet, that's not how either party is acting. Republicans don't seem particularly worried about the triggers and Democrats don't seem particularly interested in pressing their advantage. At least for now.

But it's hard to imagine that, in an election year, the Democrats won't press that advantage. Grover Norquist is taking bows these days, noting that Republicans fear to cross him. But, like Captain Ahab's crew, their maniacal refusal to raise revenues could sink the Republican ship -- with only one or two Ishmaels left to tell the tale.

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