One thing many people aren’t factoring into this budget debate is the fact that it will be happening in a Presidential election season. The more established GOP candidates have begun to enter the race, and they will need to get votes from conservative backers. Therefore they will push the public conversation increasingly to the right. Witness Tim Pawlenty advocating for a government shutdown tomorrow:
(Pawlenty) then launched into a full-throated attack on the other big government spending story moving on Capitol Hill on Wednesday: the vote for the shutdown-averting 2011 budget deal forged by Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and, of course, the leaders of Pawlenty’s own party in the House last week.
“The more we learn about” that deal, Pawlenty said, “the worse it looks.”
With his attack on the plan, which he said was “forced” by Obama and Reid, Pawlenty joins the ranks of conservatives upset that the largest raw-dollar spending cut in American history didn’t go nearly far enough.
“When you consider that the federal deficit in February alone was over $222 billion, to have actual cuts less than the $38 billion originally advertised is just not serious,” Pawlenty said in his statement Wednesday. “The fact that billions of dollars advertised as cuts were not scheduled to be spent in any case makes this budget wholly unacceptable.”
I’ve done away with the canard that the budget deal was entirely smoke and mirrors. But here’s the comeuppance: that claim, paraded by those who want to believe that the President played a bad hand, is being used by GOP Presidential types to nullify the deal entirely.
I don’t think T-Paw will be successful this time around. But this sets the marker for the next fight. In fact, the whole kabuki about the GOP having “trouble” rounding up the votes for the budget deal is in service to playing another round of “bad cop, insane cop” and forcing major concessions in the next hostage event. John Boehner certainly believes that will be the debt limit, and he treated the Obama plan announced today like a first pass on THAT fight. The outside pressure from these GOP Presidential candidates who want to show off their crazy side will help serve that end as well.
So the political dynamic on the right is to move further and further right. The political dynamic on the left is to move further and further right, and give up on some very important priorities.
The United States now really needs the government to be spending an extra $3T on infrastructure over the next 12 years–other Pacific nations are planning to do so. Obama is giving up.
The United States now really needs–and Ben Bernanke recommends–an additional ARRA-sized fiscal stimulus over the next three years of $1T or so. Obama is giving that up.
The United States really needs failure to meet budget-balance targets to trigger high-bracket tax increases. Obama is giving that up.
The United States really needs to deal with the greater fiscal needs of an aging America by either (a) opening the borders, or (b) implementing a VAT. Obama is giving that up.
I list these not to necessarily agree with all of them, but to give you the scope of options that have been written out of this debate. Obama offered a defense of the welfare state today, and he supported mildly higher taxes on the rich, but those were two specks on a large field, with the rest of it not tended to. The fact that Third Way thinks Obama is leading on this fight, and that the deficit debate has moved from “if or when” to “how” tells you most of what you need to know.
Will there be any stop to this death march to the right?