Booman Tribune

What Obama is Doing

by BooMan
Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 02:33:58 PM EST

Perhaps the administration's best argument for the deal that is being floated is that John Boehner is too budgetarily-illiterate and politically inept to actually press any advantage on the debt ceiling.

The White House laughs off the GOP’s theory that they can use the debt ceiling to extract big spending cuts without any further tax increases. For one thing, Boehner wouldn’t know how to achieve his “dollar-for-dollar” rule if you gave him total control of the budget. Raising the debt ceiling will cost around $1.5 trillion through 2014. Boehner has never named spending cuts even in the neighborhood of $1.5 trillion. In fact, he’s never named many entitlement cuts at all. Republicans actually seem terrified of entitlement cuts.

“You either cut Medicare or we default the country?” Asks one top Democrat, describing the fight the GOP is setting up. “And we don’t have the guts to put out our Medicare cuts so you need to put them out for us? And now you need to round up the Democratic votes to help us blackmail you? That’s the plan?”

Indeed, the Republicans are playing with fire if they threaten to default the country again, but that is triply true when you realize that they can't even craft a bill that would do what they say that they want to do and they are terrified of even trying to craft such a bill.

Goal number one (before the cliff) has always been to break the grip of the Norquist pledge, while the next most important goals were to help the economy by extending unemployment insurance and stimulative tax credits, and to (ideally) end the fuss about the debt ceiling. In the floated deal, most of this is accomplished. Although the debt ceiling remains a problem, the quoted bit above explains why they are not worried about it. Plus, there are (so far) no cuts beyond those included in the sequester. If they want money for the Pentagon, we can trade it for money for Head Start. This is the downside of not reaching a Grand Bargain. We will have to barter for everything we value in the federal budget, which means we can't be fully focused on immigration reform or assault weapons or addressing climate change.

The floated deal provides a LOT that we would not otherwise get, yet I am still not sure that the White House expects it to pass, and a big part of Obama's appearance this afternoon was about making the Republicans look especially bad and petty if they do not agree to a deal. Basically, the president said that a deal was almost done and that there were only minor, insignificant things left to resolve. He taunted Congress, calling them totally ineffectual and openly laughing at them. This led, inevitably, to a bunch of butt-hurt tweets from Republicans and Republican aides about how Obama was "moving the goalposts" and trying to "sabotage a deal." Yes, getting them to write those tweets was part of the plan to maximize how bad the GOP will look if they don't agree to a deal.

In other words, the president promised more than had been agreed to and dared the Republicans to blow up the talks. He can live with the deal he outlined, but he can live without it, too.

Yeah, I've been thinking about this one. The Republicans are mewling about dollar-for-dollar budget cuts/debt ceiling rise again. Yet depending on where we end up after the sequester cuts are eliminated or modified, it seems extremely likely that they would have to start coming after SS/Medi/Medi benefits to achieve their cuts.

I think it was put well yesterday, when McConnell miscalculated for a few hours and wanted SS Chained CPI as part of the smaller deal. McCain was right in identifying that raising taxes for everyone because you haven't gotten the Dem's agreement to slash Social Security "is not a winning hand."

Similarly, threatening to default on the government's debts and damage the markets and economy until you've got SS/Medi/Medi cuts? There is overwhelming opposition to ANY cuts in those programs; that's crazy. Yet we hear about Corker and Alexander presenting a plan to the Senate which would do exactly that.

Something Boo mentioned recently does come to mind: many of these Republicans don't care how unpopular their actions make them. Will that include advocating and passing cuts to programs which will hurt and enrage their own constituents? It's depressingly possible that the ideology of a bunch of these yahoos would want to do that.

The final thing that pisses me off about all of this is the idea that to get any bills passed at all Democrats might have to vote for budget bills which cut deeply, while many/most GOP'ers continue to stand by and vote No. I'm familiar with this here in California, where the last few budgets of deep cuts and no revenue were passed with votes of every single Democrat and just a couple of Republicans in each chamber. If you're paying attention you realize that Republicans actually wanted deeper and different cuts which damage Democratic constituencies. But most people aren't or can't pay attention, so to them Republicans opposed cuts while all Democrats voted for them.  

What a fucked-up game. Problem is, lives are in the balance, literally. IT'S NOT A GAME.    

"...measuring (Mr. Lincoln) by the sentiment of his country...he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined."- Frederick Douglass

by centerfielddj on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 02:58:54 PM EST

"You either cut Medicare or we default the country?" Asks one top Democrat, describing the fight the GOP is setting up. "And we don't have the guts to put out our Medicare cuts so you need to put them out for us? And now you need to round up the Democratic votes to help us blackmail you? That's the plan?"

I'd find this funny if it weren't for the fact that the plan might work.

Repubs:  "Give us what we want, or we destroy the economy."

Dems:  "We don't negotiate with ... wait, what are your demands?"

Repubs: "Um, you tell us."

Dems: "Oh, okay.  How about a trillion dollars?"

Repubs:  "YOU'RE NOT TAKING US SERIOUSLY!  We'll blow it all up, we really will!"

Dems: "Okay, okay, how about a trillion and a half, and we blow up part of the economy for you?"

Repub: "Well, I don't know if we can get enough of our people to vote for it.  Will your people vote for it?"

Dems: "Maybe.  We'll check."

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

by Bearpaw on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 03:02:00 PM EST
Generally speaking, if you're wishlist starts at $1.6T and you end up with (as reported) $0.6T, that means you got less than half of what you wanted. 38.5% of what you wanted, to be exact. For something that you allegedly "got for free."

So if any of this is true, somebody is very desperate to not torch congress to the ground so they can try and pass gun control and immigration stuff later. I'm willing to accept its strategic benefits, but things appears as though they might be tending towards a late-game tactical loss at the moment.

Barring the House fucking everything up for everybody...

by Bazooka Joe on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 02:46:49 PM EST
I'm beginning to think that there will be no deal, and that the President is, hopefully, just playing the chumps named the WH Press Corps.  Which means the WH is fully willing to go over the cliff.  Which is good, if that's what happens.
by Phil Perspective on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 02:53:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or you could say they are getting 75% of what they would get for free in exchange for extending some other mostly temporary measures.

Gun control legislation isn't likely to happen but I think immigration will because the GOP will want to defuse that before the next election.

by ishmael on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 02:54:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I sure as hell HOPE the House once again saves the idiot Dems from themselves (and the rest of us from them).  
by Steve LaBonne on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 02:54:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
once again

This keeps happening, but it's "luck" every time.

Uh huh.

Art is the handmaid of human good.

by joe from Lowell ( on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 03:25:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If only the Republicans would cooperate with Obama and help him cut Social Security and Medicare...
by Xantar ( on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 03:46:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Remember last July, when Obama was trying to reduce the Medicare age and use Chained CPI for Social Security COLAs, and Eric Cantor stepped in and said, "No way, Mr. President!  We're not going to cut the deficit on the backs of retiree!  The New Deal and Great Society centerpieces aren't going to take a hit while I'm Majority Whip!"

You all remember that, right?

Art is the handmaid of human good.

by joe from Lowell ( on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 04:27:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You know full well Obama is willing to give them Chained CPI for SS.

The establishment view is that these programs are out of control and need to be reigned in and while Obama has defended these programs let's not pretend he's Bernie Sanders on the issue.

by ishmael on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 04:46:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Barack Obama must be the worse negotiator in history.

He's been trying to get the Republicans to accept chained CPI for two years, and they still won't do it.


Art is the handmaid of human good.

by joe from Lowell ( on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 07:40:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've always though that Obama was trying to get the fiscal deal now because he wanted it over so he can focus on gun control legislation.  he really seemed affected by the Conneticut shootings.  so now gun control has pushed to the top of the list
by lamh31 on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 02:55:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I do not believe the house GOP knows how to say yes. I do not believe Ms. Nancy will allow the Dems to vote unless the GOP can produce x number of votes.  The deal is dead and we are going over the cliff.
by shan on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 02:57:51 PM EST
I would say that it seems like it is Obama who is wild to get a deal done before Midnight.  Of course he wants to blame Repubs if it fails, but he is the driver of the whole thing at this point, as the Biden intervention makes clear.  He will own whatever shit deal comes out of this circus.  Likely we won't even know the terms of the deal when our "representatives" are voting on it.  And many of them won't know, either. An appalling failed system in utter collapse.

The Dems (again) are the party of responsibility, not politics.  So they will be responsible if a deal happens.  But if the very well off ($250,000-$450,000) have their absurdly low Bush-era tax rates made permanent, and the super rich have their now non-existent estate taxes made permanently low, Dems will have suffered a catastrophic revenue defeat, and snatched massive political defeat from the jaws of victory.  This will not play well and will not be able to be spun and crammed down our throats as a "victory".

We simply refuse to play hardball with the Repubs, and they know it.  Weak.

by euzoius on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 03:10:25 PM EST
Under the floated deal, capital gains would go up to 20% on high earners.  Also, he made a strong point that he expects and pay-for for the debt ceiling to include more progressive taxation/closing of loopholes for the rich.  

"The obvious was hidden. With nothing to believe in, the compass always points to Terrapin." -Robert Hunter
by BooMan on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 03:19:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Round-up of Unhappy Republicans in Congress, sounding off about Obama's jibes today - LIVE Updates

The Guardian) - That was probably an ill-judged appearance by President Obama, made worse by giving it the appearance of a victory rally, complete with glib jokes about Congress and where he would spend New Year's Eve.

There was even a trademark "Professor Obama" lecture on his own uprightness and moral probity - just as a deal was coming together in the Senate. Conspiracy theory: maybe Obama wanted to torpedo the deal?  

"Time comes when silence becomes betrayal" - MLK on April 4, 1967
by Oui on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 03:17:44 PM EST
my mom draws unemployment since she had her heart attack.  it's her sole source of income until she hears from SS & or disability  which can take a very long time anyway, but especially in NOLA right now with all the backlog.  I know, I know it's just one issue, but it's the primary one in my mind right now for obvious reasons.

if no deal is reached, what does that realistically do for unemployment benefits?

I've read somewhere that it will only be fora few weeks, but then I read it would be longer.  which is it?  

by lamh31 on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 03:58:32 PM EST
There will be an interruption, at the very least.  Hopefully, an eventual deal will give your mom retroactive payment for what she missed, but it's possible she might never see the money.  

"The obvious was hidden. With nothing to believe in, the compass always points to Terrapin." -Robert Hunter
by BooMan on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 04:00:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
so no deal might be  bad for my mom then Ii guess. I'm starting a new job in 2 weeks, so besides my final paycheck from my job, I won't have another paycheck until my first check from the new one. which I will prob not see until at least the end of the month. hopefully she hears from guv before then, but if it takes until March (which is an early estimate), then il. have to fund a good bit of her income until then, which isn't that bad, but it would put a strain on my finance for a while

still I understand my mom is only one person, but u can guess why its my front & center concern right now.

selfish of me I know.

by lamh31 on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 04:06:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not selfist at all.  I've been growing angrier by the week at progressives who have been cheerleading going over the cliff without any seeming compassion for people like your mom.  In any case, the House has announced no votes on any deal tonight.  

"The obvious was hidden. With nothing to believe in, the compass always points to Terrapin." -Robert Hunter
by BooMan on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 04:09:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The people demanding we go over the cliff are, of course, the self-same progressives who spent two years attacking Obama for imaginary austerity that never happened.

Did I mention that they are so very much  more principled than you, and that they really hate the way you flip-flop your positions based on whether they tend to enable attacks on President Obama?

Art is the handmaid of human good.

by joe from Lowell ( on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 04:51:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
With respect, you're just not thinking this through. A lot more people will suffer with the kind of cuts the Republicans will demand for raising the debt limit. It's bad enough that Obama has unilaterally disarmed by rejecting executive-branch-only solutions to that nonsense, now, if this deal goes through, he'll lose the only political leverage he has left- the reversion to all of the Clinton tax rates. This deal will be a sham; far worse will be coming down the pike in just a couple of months.

We cannot spend two years playing this game- there'll be little left of the country.. There needs to be an all-out effort to splinter the House Republican caucus, destroy the "Hastert rule", and assemble a working bipartisan majority that can govern, if not well, at least not in a catastrophically bad Tea Party way.

by Steve LaBonne on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 04:52:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
you aren't considering the very real possibility that this won't splinter the Republicans at all but rather will cause them to dig their heels in even more.  There is nothing from stopping them tying UI to the restoration of all Bush rates.  Nothing and the longer people are in dire circumstances the more leverage they will have to do that.  
by Camussie on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 05:06:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course it's a gamble, but one that must be taken. No matter how malodorous Republicans become to the general electorate, gerrymandering may guarantee them a House majority even past 2014. The results of allowing this game to be played over and over would be so catastrophic that any other course of action is preferable. We need not only to go over the cliff but over the debt-limit cataract. The idea that fewer people will be hurt by letting the Republicans enact the Ryan budget bit by bit is delusional. And make no mistake, that's where the "deal" approach is leading.
by Steve LaBonne on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 05:24:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oui asked the question regarding this whole last minute mess (On Booman's post Stirrings on Ledge of the Cliff):

Does that mean kicking the can down the road?

And I answered. My answer pertains here as well, it seems to me. Read on.

Does that mean kicking the can down the road?

Of course.

Some kind of deal is already in place.


As you posted:

Wall Street ending higher


PermaGov done got its New Year's gift.

What kind of deal, exactly?

Well, as I posted to a previous Booman article regarding what's up here:

I am "hearing" that Obama and the Dems have either been:

1-Given permission by the corporate masters of both parties to essentially put the Ratpubs out of business...a two-party fix system that is so blatantly populated on one side by a group of people who are headed for the tarpits cannot by sustained past a certain point of tarpitting, and it appears to me that said point has just about been reached. In 4 more years the already scrofulous-looking population of the Republican national convention will look appear on television to be the geriatric ward of a whites-only country hospital.


2-The Dems have been instructed to fade a little so that the Ratpubs can be re-populated over the next several years by a media-based equality game of some sort. The true centrist act. You know..."Both parties are at fault here!!!"

We'll see. Very soon.

If the Dems get to the edge of the so-called fiscal cliff and cop out at the last minute "for the good of the country" then it's #2 and the attempt to continue the present alternating fix scheme will continue.

If they don't cop out then they are going for the Ratpub jugular and the PermaGov plan for 2014 (2016 at the latest) is to have Dem majorities in both houses and a Dem preznit as well. Would that mean one-party rule? So nu? If the American public is so media-hypnotized that they will swallow anything...chemical-laden Subway sandwiches as "healthy food," stupid, violent movies as heroic fare or people like McCain and Romney as serious contenders, all the same kind of necromancing/mediatrancing...then they will swallow a de facto dictatorship as well.


Any way it goes the PermaGov will win in its own fairly short-term manner. As long as it controls the media and the media remain in control of the minds, bodies and emotions of the vast majority of Americans, whatever it wants to do will get done.

A naked preznit?

Hans Christian Anderson understood way back in 1837.


Yes he did.

Long term?

Them chickens is gonna come home to roost some day. It's just a matter of when.

Bet on it.

Chickens home to roost

Bet on it.


We will see...those of us who are not wearing "Eyes Wide Shut" glasses will see, anyway...over the next couple of weeks.


One thing for sure, though. It won't be the corporate classes bearing the brunt of whatever goes down. Not really, no matter what or how much propaganda is spewed. Threatened wealth will just go elsewhere, and it will be given ample time and many gaping loopholes to do so as well. Meanwhile, the cracks in  the societal wall through which upward classist/financial movement has historically been achieved in the U.S.? Those cracks are being mortared and pestled right into nonexistence. (See this for more on that idea. The Financial War Against the Economy at Large - Right on the money. Read it.)


Ross Perot pinned the general direction of things in 1992.

Here's what he said.

To those of you in the audience who are business people, pretty simple: If you're paying $12, $13, $14 an hour for factory workers and you can move your factory South of the border, pay a dollar an hour for labor, hire young -- let's assume you've been in business for a long time and you've got a mature work force -- pay a dollar an hour for your labor, have no health care -- that's the most expensive single element in making a car -- have no environmental controls, no pollution controls and no retirement, and you don't care about anything but making money, there will be a giant sucking sound going south.

So we -- if the people send me to Washington the first thing I'll do is study that 2,000-page agreement and make sure it's a two-way street. One last part here -- I decided i was dumb and didn't understand it so I called the Who's Who of the folks who've been around it and I said, "Why won't everybody go South?" They say, "It'd be disruptive." I said, "For how long?" I finally got them up from 12 to 15 years. And I said, "well, how does it stop being disruptive?" And that is when their jobs come up from a dollar an hour to six dollars an hour, and ours go down to six dollars an hour, and then it's leveled again. But in the meantime, you've wrecked the country with these kinds of deals. We've got to cut it out.

Ross Perot, 3-way debate w/Clinton and Bush, 1992

Been a hell of a two decades, ain't it?

One hell of a two decades.

The way things are and have been headed...a constant accerlation, much would you bet on our surviving another decade?

Your life?

'Cuz that's what's in the balance.

Seen the classic Terry Gilliam movie Brazil?


You're about to be living in it.

Happy New Year.


Like the movie Groundhog Day only longer.

Much longer.



P.S. Or is it more like P. D. Ouspensky's The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin?

UH oh!!!

Let us pray.


I am not an anarchist; I'm a nonarchist/multiarchist. Trust none of them.-Arthur Gilroy
by Arthur Gilroy (arthurgilroy<at> on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 04:07:40 PM EST
Why are so many people (especially here) making excuses for Obama? This deal stinks. Listening to Obama today, he sounds weak. Very technocratic. No talk of election mandate or principles.

Raising the threshold for higher marginal rates to $400K instead of his campaign promise of $250K, is a disgrace.

The estate tax loses a lot of bite. Much of the "action" is around deductions, which have a way of creeping back in (as opposed to bright-line numbers like marginal rates). What Obama gets in return are short term stimulus measures, which is a terrible trade off.

by Quiddity ( on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 05:44:11 PM EST
Spot on! Way too many O cheerleaders. Suggestion to cheerleaders: Get Real.

We've got many spineless Dem senators, too. Obama's not the only one.

by rover27 on Mon Dec 31st, 2012 at 06:48:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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