Sunday, August 7, 2011

Destabilizers and Laying Blame

Crossposted at MyDD.

Set aside S&P's credibility problems and their $2 Trillion oopsie (also, somewhat credible defenses from Ezra Klein and Felix Salmon), and what they're saying is we don't care exactly how you do it, as long as everyone agrees to do it for longer than the next election cycle.  Cuts are super, no revenue increases = unrealistic, and someone we aren't serious enough to name specifically used the prospect of default as a bargaining chip, and that's just crazy.

The reasons for the downgrade, in a nutshell: dysfunctional politics.  And NYU's Jay Rosen nails it in a tweet:
If we are to credit S & P's clear thinking, as says, then the opinion should have read: the Republicans destabilized the system.
But saying that directly in a report that could (probably not) further weaken the US economy would be uncivil! Let's just dance around it, fan the flames of dysfunction, and scurry back before Goldman Sachs yells at us again.

In the end, the downgrade may be useful in elevating a legitimate point from progressive circles to, oh, say, the White House and Senate Dems:  The House of Representatives is held hostage by a pack of simple minded zealots who don't give two shits about governance, economics, or reality. The Daily Beast profiles 19 freshmen who'd like to see it all burn:
If there is one thing clear from the Tea Party caucus’ first triumph, it is that its members don’t adhere to Washington convention or care about public sentiment. The greater the criticism, the more they stiffen. Their singular focus is collapsing the size of government, at any cost.
No tactic is too extreme, no issue too small (debt-ceiling votes used to be routine before they came to Washington), and no offer of a federal project for their district or a glitzy committee assignment can lure them from the stubborn line they intend to hold against spending.
“So you’re sitting down with [Speaker] Boehner and [House Majority Leader] Cantor, and they’re offering you stuff for a vote,” Walsh, the Illinois Republican, recalls. “They can help you and do some things, you know, committee assignments and help moving up the chain.
“But whew,” he says, making a whistling sound and sweeping his hand over his head. “You’re talking beyond me. I just don’t care.”
Calling this a mere lack of adherance to "Washington convention" is like calling Charlie Manson a "free thinker."  It's clear, for what it's worth, that S&P puts a lot of the reason for the downgrade on a handful of lawmakers with a near-religious fidelity to an American history they've re-imagined in their own image.  It's not just that the President shouldn't be open to negotiating with the lowest common demoninators, it's that you can't negoatiate with them, and they rule the GOP. 
 
Also via Tweet, Robert Reich sees a way around it for Obama:
Mr President: Put forth bold jobs plan, challenge Rs to support it, and if they refuse make it center of your 2012 campaign.
Keyword: bold.  Drew Westen writes today that the President's problem is messaging.  He didn't tell a story with clearly defined villains, Westen says.  I agree.  But while the blame for the downgrade itself may be clear, blame for the situation right now should be spread on Democrats across the board.  More from the Daily Beast:
This time the geometry of triangulation is different. Obama is hunkered in one corner with House and Senate Democrats, who are increasingly alienated by the president’s willingness to compromise with the conservative wing of the GOP.
House and Senate Democrats are alienated?  Valid criticism -- and important going forward -- but Democratic lawmakers get a pass now considering their track record and the Legislative Meh they've served up again and again?  The POTUS and Democratic lawmakers shoulder the blame for the 2010 outcome.  Sure the story could have been better told by Obama. Also true, legislative agendas under a Democratic majority haven't lent themselves well to defining a compelling narrative. For every legislative success there is a contradicting backstory.  For every bold challenge, a walk back.  Where's the inspiration in running away from a pre-election Bush Tax Cut fight? Where's the vision in letting Max Bacchus wander health care reform through the woods for months?  NYT's Timothy Egan wrote in August 2010, foretelling Democratic losses, "[Democrats] have been terrible at trying to explain who they stand for and the larger goal of their governance."

The public has long been soured on the tea party, even in conservative meccas.  They support tax reforms and increased contributions from the nation's most wealthy.  They've cooled on the overly-simplistic Republican slogans and warmed to blaming them for failure to solve our country's problems.  They want Social Security and Medicare strengthened not shredded.

Now if they could only find a party that stood for those things!

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