Monday, April 11, 2011

Analyzing The Shutdown Deal

Around midnight on Friday, the House and Senate approved a six-day “bridge” bill to avert a shutdown as they draft and approve an agreed-upon bipartisan bill to fund the government for six months, through the end of the fiscal year. The big questions now are who won, who lost, and what does it all mean?

Here are the terms of the deal:

1. The deal cuts $38.5 billion from the remaining six months of the 2011 budget. This joins $40 billion already cut.

2. The deal does not block funding for ObamaCare, BUT it does require the Senate to vote separately on blocking funding. It also requires (1) studies to examine the full impact of the law’s mandates, including the effect on the cost of premiums, (2) an audit of all waivers given to businesses and unions, and (3) a report on all contractors who have been hired to implement the law and the cost of those contracts to taxpayers.

3. The deal does not block funding for Planned Parenthood, BUT it does require the Senate to vote on this issue separately. It also bars the use of federal money for abortions in Washington, D.C.

4. The deal does not block funding for the EPA, NPR, or PBS.

5. The bill requires the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to undergo yearly audits from the private sector and the GAO.

6. The deal prevents Obama from closing Guantanamo Bay.

7. The deal reinstates the school voucher program in Washington, D.C., which Obama cut when he came to power.
1. The Cuts. Some on the right are upset about the level of cuts. Some are not. Michelle Bachmann says these cuts did not dig deeply enough. Tea Party Nation head Judson Phillips said he will recruit a primary challenger to run against Boehner for “selling us out.” But Paul Ryan dismissed these claims, saying it was more important to focus on the 2012 budget: “this is the first bite of the apple. . . we want to get talking about trillions in savings.” John Thune echoed this, saying “this is just the opening act.” Newt Gingrich also called this “a good start.”

On the left, many are irate. Harry Reid himself called $32 billion in cuts “extreme” and “draconian” before he agreed to $38.5 billion. Chuck Schumer continues to echo those sentiments. Forty-four House “progressive” Democrats announced they will vote against the measure. A top Democratic strategist also complained that this deal destroyed the party’s credibility on the spending cut issue because its assumptions have shifted the debate from "whether to cut" to "how much to cut."

So who’s right? The Republicans are clear winners in this.

For starters, the numbers are bigger than the critics admit. The Tea Party candidates ran on the promise to get $100 billion in cuts out of this budget. Obama folded right away on $40 billion in spending increases he had originally sought in the 2011 budget. This deal adds another $38.5 billion on top of that, for a total reduction of $78.5 billion. That’s short of the $100 billion promised but is quite significant given that the Republicans only control one chamber.

Further, these cuts are in baseline discretionary numbers, which means they form the basis for future spending. That translates into hundreds of billions of dollars in automatic future cuts even if nothing else happens budget-wise because of the lower baselines.

Also, while many are upset that Boehner didn’t hold out for the full $100 billion, people need to realize that negotiations don’t work that way. The only way for Boehner to get 100% would be if the Democrats were desperate to avoid a shutdown. They weren't. And since the Democrats thought a shutdown would work in their favor, and the public was split on who to blame, this would have been a highly risky and unpredictable move. Taking an unpredictable move over $21.5 billion in cuts (just 0.7% of the budget) when the real issue will be the $6 trillion in cuts in Ryan's proposed 2012 budget would have been entirely foolish -- especially as Ryan's budget will supersede those cuts. In effect, the people who are claiming Boehner failed by not standing firm are suggesting that he should have gone to the mat over $0.70 on a hundred dollar dispute that will become irrelevant in six months when a new budget is passed.

That's not a smart fight to wage, especially since Boehner will need the shutdown weapon in the future and using it too often or too soon will only get him labeled as a serial shutdowner, which will diminish its effectiveness?

2. The Riders. The riders also became an issue that set off both left and right. The left in particular is incensed, with Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray calling the deal “ludicrous” and claiming that District residents had “been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.” Eleanor Holmes Norton said, “the administration and Senate Democrats . . . roll[ed] over and use[d] our right to self-govern as a bargaining chip. It appears that District residents and detainees at Guantanamo Bay were the only groups singled out in the bill.”

So who is right? Again, this was a clear victory for the right.

First, there was no way Republicans could get these items without shutting down the government. And it's not clear that would have worked with the Democrats having nothing to lose by causing chaos. Further, shutting down the government when the issue could be framed as an attempt to ban abortion or destroy the EPA would not have played well with a public that is overwhelming concerned with deficit issues.

More importantly, the Republicans turned this into a tremendous weapon for use against the Democrats in the upcoming election, which will prove to be much more important than any of these riders. A large chunk of Senate Democrats will be up for re-election in 2012, including numerous supposed moderates. The moderates, like Joe Manchin and Ben Nelson, maintain the illusion of their moderate-status by claiming to be pro-life and opposed to ObamaCare. So far, they've been able to get away with this because Harry Reid has assured them that he will never allow votes to defund ObamaCare or Planned Parenthood to make it to the Senate floor. This deal forces both of those votes. Now Manchin and Nelson and others will need to cast votes. If they vote against, then they are exposed to their voters. If they vote in favor, then these measures might pass. They are in a bind.

Also, the other riders will generate the kinds of data that will help the Republicans sell things like defunding ObamaCare because they will show the connection between influence peddling with Obama and the granting of waivers.

In the end, the most important victory here may be that these riders will help the Republicans capture the Senate seats they need to get total control over the budget process, which control will let them implement Ryan’s budget. This is much more important than trying to squeeze these few concession from the Democrats at the moment.

3. What’s Next?. The next battle will be raising the debt ceiling, which is likely to happen in May/June. Republican leadership aides are already saying they intend to use that to get more spending cuts and more reforms. After that comes Ryan’s 2012 budget, where the real war begins. That one probably won’t be over until after the 2012 elections. . . which will be the real fight and will make all of this nothing more than an opening round distraction.

Finally, as an interesting side note, Obama is now trying to claim credit for the cuts that he opposed from the get go. This is a pretty good indication that Obama’s internal polling tells him the Republicans are on the right side of this one. Sadly for him, the public won't credit him with this because he spent all of his time attacking the cuts and he seemed barely involved in the process. Moreover, the public has stopped giving him credit for good things. In fact, despite his efforts to claim credit for extending the Bush tax cuts, 60% of the public still think Obama plans to raise their taxes. It’s the same thing with the cuts, 58% of the public thinks Obama wants to increase spending. Good luck changing that mindset!


Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - I agree with your assessment in total. Great job!1 (not because we agree, just great analysis.) I see nothing that has turned the electorate away from the mindset that caused the 2010 elections.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Jed! I agree about the electorate. They are worried primarily (if not almost entirely at the moment) about the deficit, and they are serious enough not to fall for political theater over a couple billion dollars. Right now, the best thing for the Republicans to do is to keep making progress. Shutting the government down over 0.7% of the budget would look like grandstanding, i.e. political theater over political achievement.

The real test will be the Ryan budget and the 2012 election.

T_Rav said...

Andrew, I'll admit to being a little disappointed that the government didn't get shut down, but after reading through the details of the deal, I think this may have been the best resolution to the problem. Reid and Obama let themselves get boxed in on the issue of cuts and a Senate vote on ObamaCare, and came off looking weak and ineffectual even to many liberals. On our side, while the Tea Party leaders are ticked off about such meager cuts, a lot of them gave Boehner indirect cover by saying that the numbers being negotiated over were too small from the start, so why risk a shutdown over it?

I think it was Abe Lincoln who once defined statesmanship as "getting the best out of people who are determined to give you their worst." Based on that definition, I'd say Boehner and a few other GOP leaders showed some statesmanlike qualities last week.

Tennessee Jed said...

That reminds me of an article by Jay Nordlinger about political commentary cliche's. He talks about "Kabuki Theater" and "being on the right side of history." My favorite offenders are "gravitas," "manning up," and more recently "thanks so much" although the last two are not really specific to politics exclusively. What are your?

StanH said...

I agree with your overview, this coarse correction will require several election cycles, and anyone who thinks differently is not living in reality. I wrote my congressman (Tom Price) this AM giving the, I believe…the right amount of encouragement and scolding. Though I believe it’s a good start, we mustn’t ever become complacent with our politicians, they must fear us more than some K-Street lobbyist. Apathy is our enemy, we are only at the beginning.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, I think that's right, and I think the Lincoln quote is very appropriate.

I would also add, in terms of the criticism, that there are a couple things to keep in mind. First, when two competing sides are negotiating, it is almost always impossible to get 100% of what you want because the other side has no incentive to give it to you, i.e. they are better off just saying no.

And keep in mind, the Democrats have little to lose by shutting the government down. They are disgraced with voters. So they need something to turn that around. A shutdown might given them precisely the chaotic longshot they need to shake something free, or to drag down the Republicans and thereby cleanse their own problems by comparison.

Secondly, negotiations always take place within a zone of reasonableness, where both sides see some point to negotiating. If Boehner had come in and said "I want a trillion dollars," Reid would have had no reason to take him seriously -- in fact, you see this with lawyers who show up at negotiations demanding 10 times what their case is worth, hoping to split the baby. The problem is the other side sees them as jokers and plays ultrahardball. And when these jokers realize they aren't going to get what they want, they usually end up leaving with less than they would have gotten had they approached this rationally.


AndrewPrice said...

Third, on the criticism, it's far too easy to say "he should have done XXX" as it can never be proven how this would have turned out, nor does the pundit bear the responsibility for making that decision. So we should always take such claims with a grain of salt. Unfortunately, that's the lifeblood of pundits and people who are trying to drive ratings by being loud and extreme. But it's also a fools game.

Fourth, never forget that the real audience is not the base -- the real audience are the people in the center/center-right who need to be convinced to vote Republican in 2012. It may have felt great to people in the base if he had dramatically fallen on his sword over a couple minor issues, but that doesn't show the kind of seriousness (statesmanlike behavior) that will be needed to win the majorities we need to truly get our ideas across. Nor would it ultimately satisfy the base because he would have achieved nothing and the same people now criticizing him for failing to fight would be criticizing him for failing to achieve anything.

So I think the criticism is unfair.

I also think it's unproductive to slam our own leaders for what really is a good deal. That would be like a VP of Coke slamming the company because he thinks Coke could taste a little better. It's pointless and it's bad PR.

Joel Farnham said...


While I am disappointed that the government didn't shut down, I am happy about the outcome. Not about the meagerness of the cuts. It is about how the GOP is going about the business of government. The GOP isn't strutting like they did in 1994. They aren't taking for granted the support of the people. They also aren't shutting out half of the representatives like Pelosi did.

They are taking up the spirit if not the letter of the 'Contract with America' circa 1994. They are returning to a certain level of respectability to politics. Now that seems to be an oxymoron. Respectable and Politics usually don't go together. In this instance, I feel it is apropos.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, The world is a giant cliche. Cliche's comfort people. And they make commentary very easy because you tend to just feed people generic ideas of what they already expect -- so they agree with you without you having to go into details.

That said, some of them (like "change the terms of the debate") really are useful/meaningful concepts. And I think what has irritated the Democrats so much is that the terms of the debate have changed. It is no longer about what should we spend, it's about how much do we cut. That's a total flip on what they came into power to do.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, I agree 100%. While I think the Republicans have done a great job given the circumstances of who controls the levers of power, we must recognize that this is only the first step and we can't let them suddenly stop walking. My analysis here assumes that they are working aggressively toward the big picture goal, which I think will first arrive in the 2013 budget, after the November 2012 elections.

If they lose sight of that and slip back into the old ways, then all of this needs to be reconsidered.

I guess that's a good way to say, "so far so good, but don't stop."

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I think that's true too. The one word that no one has mentioned yet is "arrogance." That was a word we heard all the time when things went wrong with Gingrich and from the get-go with Pelosi.

I really do get the feeling the Boehner is very sensitive to the opinion of the public and of other representatives, and is trying to do the right thing rather than just trying to exercise power. That is usually a good strategy for achieving much -- when you can put the goals ahead of the ego.

I'm also impressed that they seem to be thinking in the longer term. This deal for example, is a classic example of getting things that will help them with the November 2012 elections and (even more to the point) it will help mostly in the Senate, which is something many House speakers wouldn't normally think about. So there is a good deal of team play going on here.

All in all, there is much to praise, though the cuts themselves were certainly meager.

Kosh said...

I hope the GOP leadership is starting to learn to negotiate. Peggy Noonan had a good article last fall about this. She used to image of a yard stick where conservatives are close to the zero and librals are close to the 36". It is ok to start at 5 and negotiate to 15-20; everybody get that and most can live with it. However, leadership in the past would start at 15 and agree at 28. This is a huge win for the GOP, as was stated because the conversation shifted from should you cut to how much. They will continue to win with the overall population if they stay focused on the budget and don't let the democrats try to change that focus. Look for more stories about risk of death from back alley abortions and how grandma can't get her heart medicine. If they stay on message (shrinking government and give you back your liberty) and believe in it, they can get substantial cuts done.

Where the GOP could score tons of points would be for someone to come out and propose huge cuts in defense. I am pretty convinced we could bring home many of our troops, decrease the standing army while bolstering both the navy and airforce and cut the budget in half. There is so much waste in the military it is gone past being a joke. Instead of focusing on size, let's focus on quality. I would rather have a few very good tools than many old outdated ones.

AndrewPrice said...

Kosh, I agree on all points. In the past, the GOP negotiation tactics reminded me of some of the worst lawyers I knew. They would come blustering in demanding a million dollars and then would try to settle for five thousand. It made them look like fools to the public and it didn't achieve anything.

This time, they acted very reasonably. They set a reasonable goal given the limits on their current power and they came close to achieving it. Moreover, they got a lot of other things that no one would have expected -- like the votes -- because that's the kind of strategic thinking they just never displayed in the past. And they are putting in place building blocks that should continue to pay off in the future.

On defense, I absolutely agree. The one big flaw on the right is a blindness to military spending. There seems to be a belief that we just can't touch military spending, nor should we ever challenge current policy. That's how we end up supporting weapons programs that no one really wants or needs, wasting money on programs that don't actually help the military, and keep the military repeating the same tactics even when they clearly aren't working (like Afghanistan). We should be looking at how to help the military do it's job the best, the quickest and the safest. And anything that doesn't satisfy that should be looked at for elimination or replacement or reformation, not protected like a sacred cow. Unfortunately, with too many on the right, the moment you say "we don't need a second engine for the F-35" or "maybe we shouldn't be fighting a conventional war in Afghanistan," they jump and scream "you're weak on terror." It's a bad reflex action that endangers lives.

JG said...

Thanks for breaking it down. I hadn't realized that these were actually additional cuts to an already established $40B. And there's plenty of session left to work on more cuts. Which I guess was what I understood least about all the disappointment. I thought, for a CR heavily debated and necessarily compromised, this wasn't a bad result. Especially considering Reid and Obama said they wouldn't pass CR that included ANY cuts at all. That in itself, I think, is a win. I think this showed more long-term thinking on our side than anything. Did we really want to die on the hill of Obamacare or Planned Parenthood and have no cuts at all rather than forcing these things to a vote and getting 1/3 of the promised cuts? Like Michelle Bachmann, who I normally really like. I did not understand her stance on this at all, especially if she is considering higher office. Being a good leader does mean sticking to your principles, of course, but it also means being flexible and knowing how to work with the other side to accomplish your long-term goals. I saw very little in this CR that would make liberals as happy as it *should* make conservatives. But I'm just a kid, what do I know?

T_Rav said...

Andrew, what I thought was particularly amusing was the interview on Fox News Sunday with Obama's adviser David Plouffe (who I feel sorry for, just for having the name Plouffe, but not much). He and Chris Wallace kept having the same Q & A over and over again:

Wallace: A lot of people have criticized the President for not including spending cuts in his original budget proposal, but actually increasing spending. What do you say to that?

Plouffe: Well, Chris, the President has always made it clear that he's in favor of cutting spending. What he's not in favor of are irresponsible cuts such as those the Tea Party people were proposing.

Wallace: But the President didn't include any cuts in his budget proposal. If he was in favor of them, why didn't he?

Plouffe: Chris, the President has always supported budget cuts. We feel that with this budget deal, we finally have some cuts we can get on board with.

Wallace: But if he was in favor of budget cuts, why didn't he propose any?...

Repeat this exchange two or three more times, and that was basically the interview.

Kosh said...

To T_Rav:

Media: Let me see your identification.

Obama: [with a small wave of his hand] You don't need to see his identification.

Media: We don't need to see his identification.

Obama: These aren't the droids you're looking for.

Media: These aren't the droids we're looking for.

Obama: He can go about his business.

Media: You can go about your business.

Obama: Move along.

Media: Move along... move along.

BevfromNYC said...

In a weird way, I think Wisconsin election played a background role. If Prosser had lost, the Dems would have seen that as a sign that THEY are right and the people don't care about spending. Then used a shutdown to bludgeon the Repubs who, as we all know, don't care about the little people yadda, yadda, yadda.

Personally, I think Boehner did a great job. There was going to be compromise and there is a much bigger fight coming with the 2012 budget which ultimately will be much more important. But look it this way - We ultimately proposed $60B and got $38.5B; They proposed $6B and had to settle for $38.5B Now really, who came out better in this negotiation? If we can do that well for 2012, that would be magnificent.

AndrewPrice said...

JG, You're welcome. I think the biggest problem with the criticism is that people started criticizing without actually looking at the terms of the deal. They just looked at the $38.5 billion figure (which they compared to the $100 billion) and heard about the two big riders (Planned Parenthood and ObamaCare) and they decided that this wasn't a good deal.

I also think that was spurred on by a lot of people who have become very shrill because it drives business to their blogs/talk shows to be constantly pounding the table. And let me say, that if Boehner had decided to forgo any deal over these riders or these small numbers, I would bet the same people blasting him for cutting this deal would be blasting him for not getting the cuts and for losing sight of the goal. It's a sucker's game, heads I win, tails you lose, and people with no actual responsibility in politics play it a lot.

In terms of Bachmann, I normally like her too. In this instance, however, I think she was being a bit cynical. I think she's looking for a way to make herself stand out from the other 2012 candidates and she thinks that means being a bit of a caricature of the Tea Party is the way to go. And I think she saw this as an easy opportunity to be bombastic and to basically say "it would have been better if I had been in charge." Which of course, can't be proven one way or the other, so she can say it without fear of someone disproving her statement. Unfortunately, that's the sort of thing Presidential candidates often do.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, It almost reads like insanity or something out of 1984 does it? Seriously, at what point does his head explode?

But that's been the Democratic way since at least the 1980s. They oppose things they vote for, they block things they support, and they never ever ever do what they say they will do. But in their minds, that's ok because you should listen to their words and their intentions if you are the public and watch their deeds if you are a progressive.

The clever ones at least say things like "I'm all for spending cuts" and then just never find one they like. The dumb ones do what Obama did here. Or they say things like "I was for it before I was against it."

AndrewPrice said...

Kosh, That about sums things up until recently. Once they started to realize that Obama was betraying the progressive cause which our unbiased media supports to fervently, then they started to say: "Wait a minute, I was promised droids! Where are my droids?!"

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Agreed on all points. The Democrats actually started at $0 in cuts because they claimed they had already made enough cuts with the $40 billion. And either way you look at it percentage-wise, Boehner got a very good deal for someone without a lot of power.

I think your Wisconsin point is quite insightful. If Prosser had won, the Democrats might have been openly seeking a shutdown. As it is, I think they wouldn't have minded one, though they weren't actively seeking it. Right now, they are in disgrace and the easiest way out for them will be to take some dramatic action that either makes them look really good or makes the Republicans look really bad. A shutdown could have hurt either or both sides, but it probably would have hurt the Republicans more because (1) it could have killed off the momentum the Republicans have been gaining, (2) it could have poisoned the ground ahead of the 2012 negotiations, and (3) it could have dragged the Republicans down to their level and alleviated their own recent failures by making both parties seem equally pathetic.

So I think it was very wise for Boehner to avoid a shut down this time.... save it until he really needs it. Act like an adult, set the Democrats up for the next budget and plan for the 2012 election so that 2013 could become "The Year the Republicans Remade America."

Tennessee Jed said...

One other thing the right must be careful about. We know that B.O. is going to propose tax increases on the wealthy. That, unfortunately, is a pitch that helps energize the Democratic base. What I am saying is, our guys need some good soundbites that help put the lie to tax increases. They have to be 1) brief 2) logical 3) catchy. I can usually win such an argument, but admit I have a hard time doing it in a way that doesn't make people's eyes glaze over.

T_Rav said...

Kosh, snicker. If only the Democrats were as wise as Ben Kenobi.

Bev, I totally agree with your point about Wisconsin. I think the Dems realized they might not have public opinion as completely locked up on this issue as they thought they did, and that may have helped prompt them to cave in. Who'da thunk it?

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, That's been a weakness of our side for years -- we don't soundbite well.

Part of that is lack of knowledge on the parts of many Republicans. Part of it is that Republicans tend to try to be truthful and highly accurate in their arguments, as compared to Democrats who go for emotion and flash.

The Republicans really should create a school to teach basic policy, basic economics, basic math, and basic PR to all elected Republicans.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav and Bev, The thing about negotiations is that you always have to consider that things may not work out like you expect. Reid and the ObamaCrats got hints that things weren't going according to plan last month when the polls showed an even split on blame. They assumed the public would be 80-90% against the Republicans because of 1994. They were shocked to find the public wasn't entirely on their side (shocked enough to whine to the papers).

I think the Wisconsin thing was serious confirmation of that because if they can't win on their strongest issue in a state Obama carried by something like 59%, then they really are in a weak position. That's why I think they cut the deal.

T-Rav, The Democrats do not have the wisdom of Obi Wan. They have the wisdom of young Luke Skywalker. They also a view of governing with Darth Vader, and when it comes to the military they rely upon the courage of C-3PO.

Unknown said...

Andrew: Excellent analysis. Now we have the real battle to look forward to. But I think the Republicans, particularly the conservative wing, have put both Democrats and RINOs on notice that the Ryan plan is on the table, and they have to propose something to counter it, not just attack it. We have the momentum, now I just hope we can keep it. This is a fight for America's economic survival, and we can't go weak-kneed now.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Agreed. I think the conservatives have the momentum and they are driving this debate now. And the Ryan plan is the goal. I know we won't get all of it in 2012, but I'm hoping we start to get some significant parts, and then in 2013, I hope we get the whole things with clear majorities in both Houses and a Republican President.

BevfromNYC said...

I wonder what the Dems gave up for Boehner to semi-cave on cutting Planned Parenthood and NPR et al.? Any ideas? I read a report that the Dems agreed to other cuts to keep them for now...

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, The original offer was that Reid would agree to stab Nancy Pelosi on the House floor, ala Julius Caesar. . . but the Republicans rejected that and told Reid he had to come up with something better. ;-)

BevfromNYC said...

Boehner could have just settled for Reid throwing a bucket of water on her and she would have just melted into the floor...

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Thinking about it, I'm surprised that more tourists don't try that. I could see Pelosi constantly being hit with buckets of water everywhere she goes in fact?!

StanH said...

I know! …that’s what I think when I see her, it’s impulsive.

T_Rav said...

Andrew, how about "the wisdom of George Lucas circa 1999-2005"? 'Cause even young Luke had his virtues.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, It is impulsive! LOL! Can you just imagine if 10% of tourists started showing up with buckets of water? I wonder what their security would do? Ban water in the Capitol Building? That would be great -- they could call it "the Pelosi Rule"!

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, Good point. I try to block those films out of my thinking, but now that you mention it. . . the Democratic donkey does look suspiciously like Jar-Jar-Binks! :-)

Ed said...

Nice analysis! I'm seeing too many people out there just ranting away about how much they hate this deal and the more they talk, the more obvious it gets they don't know what they're talking about. It's too bad that so many people even on the right now just whine about everything. That used to be for the left only.

Notawonk said...

andrew: i've had such a headache all weekend and i've got to say i'm barely coming out of it, BUTT ( a really big but!) this helps. so much so, i'll link ya.

thanks for the analysis. well done, brother.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ed. I think people are still very upset at the whole system, left and right. And there is considerable justification.

AndrewPrice said...

Patti, You're welcome! This is definitely not an easy issue and it doesn't give that visceral satisfaction, but so far this is a good first step. As me again in 2012 how they're doing after the fight over Ryan's budget!

Tanks for the link.

DUQ said...

I was disappointed when I heard the number, so I'm glad you sorted this out. I wish more of the talk radio guys would look at these things honestly. They're all just screaming and nothing they say actually makes any sense.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, Some people make their money by being loud and obnoxious and playing the knee-jerk reaction. It's a lot easier than thinking things through and it sells a lot easier than the much more difficult effort of doing an honest assessment.

By the same token, they will blow things way out of proportion just to have something to whine about.

JG said...

So, not to keep beating this horse, but I've been seeing this rolling around the ethernet: the cuts in the CR are being label as tokenism because Congress approved almost twice as much ($80B) in spending earlier that week. Is that a legitimate criticism?

AndrewPrice said...

JG, No, that's not a legitimate criticism.

First, the budget gets spent at different parts of the year. Checks aren't sent out all on one day. So picking any particular date and comparing the spending on that date against budget cuts is deceptive because there will be other days where there is no spending whatsoever. This is an attempt to make the spending cuts look smaller than they really are by implying that this is what Congress regularly spends.

Think of it like a diet. This is the equivalent of people saying "gee, you claim you're on a diet, but you're still eating. Why don't you stop eating until you've cut out all the calories you want to cut out this year." It's stupid and it misunderstands how budgets work.

Secondly, this doesn't address what the spending is. If the spending is necessary, like payment of interest on debt or entitlements, then it's entirely unfair to compare that spending to cuts in discretionary spending -- which is what the budget deal was. And for the record, most of the spending on any particular day (about 84% is entitlements). So what they're doing is comparing required spending against cuts in discretionary spending, which is like comparing apples and oranges.

Third, none of this matters because it's the 2012 budget that matters. This is just an attempt to squeeze a few savings out of a budget that was long since put into place. In fact, if the Republicans hadn't tried this, these same idiotic critics wouldn't have complained at all. They are only upset because they wanted the round figure of $100 and they didn't get it (interestingly, few of them even realize the cuts are $78.5 billion, they are still calling it $38.5 billion because that sounds better in their rants).

Finally, let's be clear, the critics are throwing an arm-chair tantrum. They are sitting around with no knowledge of what happened in the negotiations, no responsibility to the party, the country or the voters, and they are playing the "I would have done better" game, which is a sucker game. These are the same people who will tell you how they would have tossed a football to a different player to win a game, when they've never even worn a helmet in their lives, they have no ability to throw, and they couldn't even see that the other guy was covered. It's very easy to tell everyone how you would have done better when you don't have to deal with real fact, real people and real responsibilities, and when you can rely on fantasy statements like "if I'd proposed bigger cuts, everyone would have gone along with me." Uh huh.

Sadly, this self-aggrandizing temper tantrum they are throwing will make it all the harder for the Republicans to get a good deal in the future because it makes us look un-unified, which will give the Democrats strength and turn off the independents.

AndrewPrice said...

JG, Let me add... I've done dozens and dozens of negotiations as an attorney. I understand what it takes to be successful at negotiations and I understand the limits on what you can get in a negotiation, no matter how strong your case or how aggressive you are about it.

But it never failed that someone would come along and tell the client, "that doesn't sound like a great deal, I could have done better." And never once did these idiots have any idea what they were talking about. They always assumed that it was just a matter of raising your demand high enough and then saying "take it or leave it." But of course that doesn't work. As simple proof of that matter, I would ask, "if the other side did that to you, would that make you give up? No? Ok, then why do you think it will work on them?"

The point is that people who don't know what they are talking about are usually the ones screaming the loudest about how easy it should have been to do something. That's what you have here. And now these same pundits are trying to jin up justifications to support their position and they're using bad analogies, bad statistics and outright lies to do it. That's the problem with the modern chattering classes -- the only thing they care about is being louder than everyone else, because that gets them ratings/attention.

And unfortunately, several politicians on our side pander to this.

JG said...

Thanks, Andrew. You always line things out in a way I can grasp. Of course, being contrary garners more attention, usually. And right now, it's the popular line, so you don't risk being "outcast" by being critical. And yeah, you could probably always "do better," but until they find a perfect politician, that's going to be the state of the world. Count your winnings and use it as motivation to move forward, I say, rather than undercutting any progress made just because it's not they way YOU would have done it. *cough*MichelleBachmann*cough*

AndrewPrice said...

JG, Thanks! And you're welcome. I think you're right on all counts. It's a lot easier to be contrarian because no one can prove you wrong because they would need to disprove a negative. It also generally makes you stand out from the crowd and is an easy way for people to appear "smart" because they can tell everyone how much smarter they are than the people who were actually involved, and no one can prove them wrong.

It's also very safe at the moment to be opposed to this because that's where the whiners are right now..... the whiners are going to be a problem, by the way, because they fall for theater and empty gestures and they don't have a clue how to achieve substantive changes.

Bachmann really disappointed me on this. Her first statements were very positive about the deal. But then one of the Tea Party "leaders" criticized her for not criticizing the deal. Suddenly, she's running around telling everyone who would listen that this is the worst deal since Czechoslovakia 1938. That's the definition of pandering and I find that disturbing in politicians.

Post a Comment