Saturday, April 09, 2011

Thus Ends Our Latest Episode of Kabuki DC

I'm not quite clear on all the details of the "largest budget reduction for federal agencies in U.S. history" yet, but it sounds like poor people who live in subsidized housing need to start living within their means (out on the street) and we won't be having any of that high-speed rail stuff, either. They saved Planned Parenthood for now, but sacrificed the rights of the women who live in DC. Something about mandatory audits of both health care reform and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (increasing government to eventually cut the government - make no mistake, the Republicans mean to eliminate both of these things). More to be revealed later, I'm sure. It's 3:30 in the morning as I write this, and the damage hasn't been tallied up yet.

Once again I turn to Ezra Klein. The reason I do so is because he seems to know his stuff, more reporter with a bit of analyst thrown in, and the purist left thinks he is an administration cheerleader. That's why I'm a bit disturbed to read this:

In the end, the real negotiation was not between the Republicans and the Democrats, or even the Republicans and the White House. It was between John Boehner and the conservative wing of his party. And once that became clear, it turned out that Boehner’s original offer wasn’t even in the middle. It was slightly center-left.

But you would’ve never known it from President Obama’s encomium to the agreement. Obama bragged about “making the largest annual spending cut in our history.” Harry Reid joined him, repeatedly calling the cuts “historic.” It fell to Boehner to give a clipped, businesslike statement on the deal. If you were just tuning in, you might’ve thought Boehner had been arguing for moderation, while both Obama and Reid sought to cut deeper. You would never have known that Democrats had spent months resisting these “historic” cuts, warning that they’d cost jobs and slow the recovery.

Uh oh.

So why were Reid and Obama so eager to celebrate Boehner’s compromise with his conservative members? The Democrats believe it’s good to look like a winner, even if you’ve lost. But they’re sacrificing more than they let on. By celebrating spending cuts, they’ve opened the door to further austerity measures at a moment when the recovery remains fragile. Claiming political victory now opens the door to further policy defeats later.

Seems like that is what is on the menu, as Republicans are now running around proudly proclaiming that these cuts are only the beginning. "We want to get billions in savings and then we want to move on to get trillions in savings", says Ryan. Grab your wallet, those "savings" are coming out of your pocket, Mr. and Mrs. Middle Class America. Might want to hide the kid's piggy bank too.

Taking hostages works. They'll be sure to take more next time around. And tax reform is obviously off the table. Austerity is the answer to avoiding the real tough decisions here, the decisions where everyone shares in the sacrifice, even if those austerity measures undermine the recovery. And hurt the people that have already suffered enough.

How this will play with an American public that is increasingly taking to the streets is unknown. Chances are this round of cuts won't directly hit enough people to make them grab their signs and start chanting again - but the next?

I guess we will find out, won't we. We don't have much choice in the matter.

UPDATE: Good to see Krugman picked up on the same thing I did. He's trained me well. ;-)