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.