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Democrat Balls, Side Pocket

« April 2011 »


I think I've made this analogy before, but when you're playing pool, you're always trying to set up the next shot. Even if you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you can't sink a ball, you still want to make your shot in such a way that your opponent's next shot is as difficult as possible, and/or that your next shot is as easy as possible.

Which, of course, means I'm going to be talking about the first of what's likely to be three sets of budget negotiations we'll see this year. This one was for fiscal year 2011, which the Democrats could have done last year before the Republicans took back the House, but didn't, out of fear that the Republicans would make it a campaign issue and... take back the House. Master strategists, one and all.

The next one will be the vote to raise the debt ceiling, to again avert a government shutdown, sometime in May. This is normally a pro-forma vote, but now is just another hostage the Republicans can take so that even more money is redistributed to the wealthy. And then there's the 2012 budget, which or course starts with Paul Ryan's brilliant plan to cut taxes for the rich and make up a bunch of other numbers to pretend like it'll cut the deficit.

So once the first government shutdown was avoided, with Republicans getting nearly $40 billion in cuts to social programs in exchange for not getting their ridiculous uber-right policy waivers, how did Obama set up his shot for the next fight, which is only about a month away? ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful. Programs people rely on will be cut back. Needed infrastructure projects will be delayed. And I would not have made these cuts in better circumstances. But beginning to live within our means is the only way to protect those investments that will help America compete for new jobs -- investments in our kids’ education and student loans; in clean energy and life-saving medical research. We protected the investments we need to win the future. I want to thank Speaker Boehner and Senator Reid for their leadership and their dedication during this process. A few months ago, I was able to sign a tax cut for American families because both parties worked through their differences and found common ground. Now the same cooperation will make possible the biggest annual spending cut in history,"

I have a lot of problems with these statements, but I'd like to start with four words: "live within our means". That, ladies and gentlemen, is a capitulation to Republican framing, and the biggest single mistake in the whole thing.

Republicans say that government should "live within its means". They usually add "just like any family" to it, which is of course ridiculously insulting to even America's collective intelligence. Because unlike a family, the United States government has control over both its spending AND its income. I cannot decide that I am not getting enough income to cover the necessary and discretionary spending I think is required, and go to people who I think aren't contributing enough to my family, and get money from them. The government could, if it wanted, increase its "means" whenever it wants to.

But more importantly, you do not adopt the "live within its means" phrasing when you're going up against people whose stated goal for FIFTY FUCKING YEARS is to reduce those means at every opportunity! Starve the beast, they call it. Shrink government to the size where they can drown it in the bathtub, they recommend. You know what happens when you manage to cut enough so that the government is "living within its means"? Well, they'll find another way to cut taxes for rich people and buy a bunch of bombs and whoops, suddenly there's that pesky deficit again. Time for more cuts!

It's fucking ridiculous. Do not call these cuts "historic". They're not good. You allegedly didn't want them, although I'm starting to have my doubts. If there's a case to be made for the current level of spending, MAKE IT. Because the current level of spending is going to be under fire two more times before the year is out, and since government is not "living within its means", saying that it should just sets yourself up for more cuts in May and more cuts by year's end. Stop trying to win the future, start trying to win in the future.

Also, "I would not have made these cuts in better circumstances?" Better circumstances is exactly when you make those cuts. Because in worse circumstances, MORE PEOPLE NEED HELP. More people are relying on the programs. More people need jobs fixing the infrastructure. There's an entire economic model based on government spending more when times are bad, and less when times are good, and you've just declared to the world that you don't believe in it. Or aren't going to follow it. Or aren't even going to say that you would have followed it if it weren't for Republican obstructionism.

Also, NEVER THANK JOHN BOEHNER FOR ANYTHING. Because he didn't help you. The only thing he led during this progress was a bunch of crazy Jesus-freaks who think their new tri-corner hats make them a new political force. And the only thing he's dedicated to is... hell, it's hard to even call it class warfare at this point. Warfare implies two sides fighting each other. More like class genocide. Classist cleansing.

About the only thing Obama got right is that his compromise on the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy made possible this "compromise" on huge spending cuts a few months later. The only problem is, he presented it as a good thing. I'm sure he'll talk about this wonderful cooperation a month from now, when he's touting the $50 billion in cuts he'll have to authorize in order to get the debt ceiling raise. And when he signs Paul Ryan's Medicare vouchers into law, I'm sure that'll be awesomely cooperative as well.

There are two types of people who think government should "live within its means", cut services during a recession, that tax cuts for the wealthy are an accomplishment, and that John Boehner is a leader. Democrats who are awful at their jobs, and Republicans. And since Obama doesn't stand a chance against Huckabee in the 2012 primaries, I guess he'll keep calling himself a Democrat. That way, Mitt Romney won't have to defend the individual health care mandate all by his lonesome.

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