Well That Didn’t Go Very Well

Essays

The US government didn’t shut down over the weekend, but John Boehner took it right down to the wire, squeezing every billion that he could out of the deal before making sure his party didn’t get tagged with what would have been a PR nightmare. He showed himself to be quite deft at having his way with the Democrats while claiming inability behind the scenes to manage his caucus. I think his policies are awful, but you have to acknowledge shrewd political skills when you see them.

The president, on the other hand, as has become his custom, fell all over himself to make the GOPs case for them up front, and then gave away far more than he should have needed to, given that his party also controls the Senate. But fear of being labelled a big government liberal on Fox News–which they were going to call him anyway–led to a disastrous outcome, both for the economy as well as any hopes he has for re-election.

According to reports, the President gave in to $39 billion in more cuts, this at a time when the economy is nowhere near recovered and when unemployment is still very high. He had already given away tens of billions in revenue by extending the Bush tax cuts, in exchange for weak stimulus in the form of an extension of unemployment benefits. but that stimulus effect has just been decimated by giving the GOP $39 billion of the $61 billion they asked for. This is going to cost hundreds of thousands of jobs so he shouldn’t have conceded a dime. But in an attempt to seem hip with the times, when we’re all supposed to be about tightening the old belt, the President actually tightened the noose around his own political neck, as well as the economic opportunity of the most vulnerable in society.

He will almost certainly not be re-elected if unemployment isn’t below 8% on election day, but he keeps doing things to appease Republicans so that this will only happen at the end of Tim Pawlenty’s first year in office.

The scary thing is that we still have to do a budget for FY 2012, raise the debt ceiling and address the long term deficit. If Obama was not prepared to fight for these comparatively small issues that are essential to people at the margins RIGHT NOW, as well as for his own looming electoral campaign, how well is he going to protect people who are not going to be seniors for another 10-20 years in long term negotiations?

He needs to grow a spine–and fast.

2 thoughts on “Well That Didn’t Go Very Well

  1. Whoa, I think that you are really jumping the gun in supposing that Obama ‘will almost certainly not be re-elected if unemployment isn’t below 8% on election day’. The Republicans have to come up with a credible candidate regardless of how well-liked Obama is!

    Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney are too bland to satisfy the base, while Mike Huckabee is too crazy to satisfy the moderates (along with Palin, Bachman, &c). The Repubicans have a serious long-term problem with regard to the prevalence of wingnuts within the party.

    I honestly cannot forsee any of the frontrunners posing a real challenge to Obama. The biggest problem for him would be a surprise libertarian victory in the Republican Party (Gary Johnson/Ron Paul) or a run by a credible independent/third-party candidate (eg Michael Bloomberg).

    1. Courtney, here is the history that I was referring to that Obama has to overcome. fDR is the only exception to this pattern, but he had halved an unemployment rate that had been at 25%.

      The other issues : 1) Obama’s negatives are high 2) he is polling badly in the three Southern states he won in 2008 3) his support is softening among Hispanics 4) he is way down among independents 5) the GOP base is way more motivated than the Obama base 5) the Citizens United decision means that unlimited untraceable corporate money can be funneled to the GOP candidate without fear of any blowback against the corporations 6) the economy is going to sag next year and Obama will not be able to credibly hang it on anybody.

      I agree that the GOP field is not strong. But a billion dollars of campaign money, which is what experts are saying we may see next year, can buy a lot of bane recognition and negative advertising. The left is disappointed in Obama and he is likely to be outspent by a good margin, since Big Business historically favors the GOP. So I hope I’m wrong, really I do, but I can’t see how he can win without some other dynamic not yet revealed.

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