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Why Obama and the Dems Could Not Capitulate

October 17th, 2013

Give a terrorist a cookie… and he’ll want a glass of milk.

That’s essentially what happened before. In 2011, the Republicans did the same thing—they threatened to default on the debt—and to stop them, Obama and the Democrats gave them a cookie. That cookie is still with us in the form of sequestration, which gave the Republicans almost the level of cuts that even Paul Ryan demanded in his non-fact-based budget proposals from 2008.

This year, they came back for the glass of milk with a vengeance. However, this time, the Democrats were somewhat less stupid, and simply refused. They denied the Republicans the chance to get their hands on the ACA, even a little bit, and agreed pretty much only to negotiating more in the future. This infuriated the extremists:

The conservative activist group FreedomWorks railed against the Senate deal as a “complete surrender” to Democrats. The group joined a trio that includes Club for Growth and Heritage Action in advising lawmakers to oppose the plan because they will use it to rank Republicans in their annual scorecards.

You might want to say that, despite the puerile insanity of the Tea Partiers, despite their wanton disregard for the national good in their petty drive to destroy what they would have cheered from a Republican administration, that Obama and the Democrats themselves should not have let it come so close, that they should not have played with default. That as painful as any capitulation may have been, allowing the country to go into default is not worth that or any other risk.

However, this is not a rational analysis. Democrats tried giving in, even if not very much, in 2011, and it brought us here. This time the Republicans were demanding even more. Had the Democrats caved—even in a small way—then we would be right back at the brink again next time, and again after that, having taught the Republicans that threatening to default on the debt works.

It would, in fact, only get worse. The demands would become grander and more obscene each time, the language even more vitriolic, the game of chicken more perilous. The Republicans would believe in their own indestructibility, convinced that the Democrats would cave. And at some point, after vast amounts of damage caused by the demand they were granted, default would come, and that would be catastrophic.

And the raving lunatics would go home screaming about how Obama and the Democrats were the cause of it all. Just like they have been this week, standing before crowds of veterans squealing about how Obama shut down the government and how Democrats refused to negotiate. These people know even less shame than fact.

Frankly, the entire debt-ceiling thing should not even exist. The time for that debate is when Congress decides to spend. To make the decision to spend and then threaten not to owe what they decided to spend is the height of infantile madness. It’s like taking out a loan to buy a house and then telling the bank that you refuse to owe them any money.

Over the past decades, it has generally been a quiet form of protest, a procedural protest regarding deficit spending. Now, however, that we have a party which has proved itself incapable of rational behavior, it is like a flamethrower in the hands of a four-year-old boy, who thinks it’s an incredibly cool way to demand more cookies.

Sadly, despite the precipitous drop in the polls, the Republicans may not end up paying a price. The expert wonks generally agree that it is improbable that the GOP will lose control of the House. Between gerrymandering, vote suppression, and the public’s dependable propensity to forget last year’s wrongdoings, it is likely that the independents will again make brashly stupid decisions and will return to power the same gang of thugs barren of knowledge, sympathy, or compassion.

I cannot state how badly I want them to be wrong.

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  1. Troy
    October 17th, 2013 at 14:03 | #1

    I believe Japan, too, has this debt-ceiling tango to do occasionally, too.

    And the Dems did knuckle under a little to the extortion, giving the Republicans the cookie of enhanced income testing for PPACA premium subsidies. Nobody really cares about that, but still.

    The 2011 capitulation was simply to avoid the Republicans from intentionally destroying the economy in 2011-2012, giving the Republican field more blame to falsely pin on Obama.

    It’s not the deception that is so troubling, it’s that so many millions of Americans are buying the BS.

    Obama has accomplished zero of his legislative agenda laid out in the state of the union this year. Of course, how could he, since the House has total veto of all that.

    My god this is a dysfunctional place, thanks to the idiot electorate of 2010.

    Enjoy being a PR of a nice foreign-type state! Maybe the more US screws up this decade the stronger Japan will become.

  2. Troy
    October 17th, 2013 at 14:09 | #2

    As I mentioned in the previous thread, I do think this terrorism is actually working for the Republicans. The idea is to shift the debate so f-ing far to the extreme that even far-right positions become tenable negotiating points.

    If Obama only has to reduce future of COLAs to social security recipients (“Chained CPI”) in exchange for a little less ‘sequester’, everyone will consider that a victory even though Boehner will again get 98% of what he wanted.

    This is a very evil, dark time we are approaching. It is very true that our fiscal house is simply not in order. We need to raise taxes a LOT, on everyone, but powerful interests have the institutional control to fight back powerfully. Media, propaganda outlets, and tens of millions of useful idiots in restate America.

    Failing tax rises, the only thing DC can do is cut future spending.

    Well, we can borrow too, but gov’t borrowing is just a way for the rich to cut their future tax burdens, getting interest on money that should have been taxed away in the first place.

  3. Luis
    October 17th, 2013 at 22:47 | #3

    And the Dems did knuckle under a little to the extortion, giving the Republicans the cookie of enhanced income testing for PPACA premium subsidies. Nobody really cares about that, but still.

    From what I understand, the means testing was already part of the ACA. No?

  4. Troy
    October 18th, 2013 at 01:32 | #4

    Ah, I was wrong about that:


    the online exchanges do not verify income up-front, and I thought the Dems had agreed to more enforcement (which then the Republicans could use to charge “ObamaCare” with invading peoples’ financial privacy).

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