Post-Cliff Hissy Fits from the Left (Patrick)

1 Jan

Reading the reaction from fellow liberals to the fiscal cliff is like listening to the rant at the end of Ghosts n’ Stuff or reading the angriest of Youtube comments.  To paraphrase — “He’s caved again!” “We’re screwed!” “We could have gotten the Moon and all the stars in the sky!”  It’s interesting to note the discord between liberal bloggers and what liberals, and people generally, outside the Internet believe.  Talking with some folks last night, there was clear relief and happiness with the deal.  Knowing that it doesn’t resolve everything, there was still relief that not only did we avert the negative consequences associated with going off the fiscal cliff, we got the first tax increase in two decades on wealthy Americans, raising 600 billion in revenue over ten years, did not cut spending on entitlement programs or unemployment insurance, and maintained President Obama’s bargaining position in future debates by not spending all his political capital that he has earned with the public on a protracted fight on a self-imposed economic calamity.  The main anger was that it took so long to get a deal done, because despite what some folks believe, the American people believe that politicians should keep their deadlines, and they don’t like procrastinating or violating deadlines for political aims.

What is what I hoped for? Absolutely not.  But what did the critics hope for? They hoped to go over the cliff, holding out for an ending of all Bush tax cuts over 250k, more stimulus, and a long term increase in the debt ceiling.  This wasn’t going to happen, and though their columns suggest it was easy as waiting one day more, their logic often rests on paradoxical claims and a rose-colored view of the political landscape. 

The main weakness is that on one hand, they argue that if the President had waited a day or two, let the country go over the cliff, the pressure on the House would be overwhelming, given the consequences of the cliff.  As time went by, they would have no choice but become progressives and vote for anything to President submitted.  If he had waited this long, he could have gotten health care passed again!

On the other hand, however, they argue that a huge weakness in the deal passed by the Senate was that it did not extend the debt limit, leading to another protracted fight.  The argument there is that Republicans are fully capable, as they have shown, to risk the full faith and credit of the United States in the name of ideological opposition. 

In sum, the Republicans are willing to risk a U.S. default, with consequences far greater than antyhing we have ever seen, but are so skittish about the relatively mild short-term effects of the fiscal cliff that they would pass any progressive deal demanded by the President.  I’m not buying it.  Something’s gotta give in this logic. It’s true that the Republicans are willing to risk any economic consequences if there is any chance that it would undermine the President.  Waiting a day or two would not have changed their tune. 

Coincidentally, the same liberals who believe that waiting out the fiscal cliff would give the Democrats massive leverage admit the consequences of waiting a bit would be pretty mild to non-existent, economically speaking, so where does the leverage come from? The only immediate impact could come from financial markets, which spook Republicans and Democrats alike, would result in further compromise by Senate Democrats and a worse deal.  The mild impact of the fiscal cliff would empower Republicans to just say no, and Democrats would be confused as to where all their leverage went, while the public wonders if they’ll ever have mature leadership again.

And despite high approval ratings, we saw in Obama’s first term how quickliy the public turns against him when there’s protracted legislative fighting.  So, to hold out and risk severe market swings (the type of headline-grabbing events the public pays significant attention to) and an erosion in popularity just to get the perfect second stimulus/fiscal cliff deal, with immigration and tax reform already on the docket for the second term, makes little sense to me. 

In sum, we ARE seeing a repeat of Obama’s first term, as these bloggers fear, but it’s not by Obama: we’re seeing more liberal whining, because it’s a lot easier to complain about the flaws of the most successful progressive since LBJ than to call your Congressman/Senator, organize support, and exert the kind of pressure that makes the policies you wish for a reality.


Here’s the song (sorry for the electronic music)

Here’s the articles I read:


One Response to “Post-Cliff Hissy Fits from the Left (Patrick)”

  1. dbalke23 January 1, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

    Patrick makes a good argument. This looks like a good deal for Democrats. A crucial question will be whether Boehner brings the deal for a house vote without allowing amendments, potentially jeopardizing his Speakership in the process.

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