Today’s column by Paul Krugman is hard to argue with. In fact, I think he’s right. Usually, I assume he knows what he’s talking about on the economy stuff. I mean, he has a Noble Prize, teaches at Princeton and calls the President of the United States to chat. I’m a full time law student and I once won a Geography Bee in elementary school. Not exactly my place to question Mr. Krugman. I often take issue with his politics but we’ve agreed to disagree over those columns. Today’s column is different. He’s right on.
Regardless of whether we think that the particulars of this morning’s deal are the correct choices for America, the political implications are hard to ignore. As far as the choice to slash government spending, Krugman compares that tactic to medieval medicine (thus my title) implying that Republicans are still in the dark ages when it comes to economic theory. Again, I’m not sure who to believe on these macro-economic theory questions.
But as far as his assessment of the political picture, it’s pretty clear.
And the President missed an opportunity, missed his moment and probably will emerge from this “negotiation” looking pretty weak. While I don’t think it will have lasting implications for 2012, he did after all avert default which was priority one; there’s no question the Republicans will claim victory. This seems to be Rep. Boehner’s purpose all along. Why balance the deal when the other side believes your threats are real (hopefully after the House votes we’ll never know if they were real)? Why be reasonable when there is no incentive to be? Why attempt bi-partisanship when the last 2 years have proven you don’t have too? I would have expected President Obama to stand up to the pressure from the Republican-led House but he never really did.
A few days ago, I wrote about President Obama’s “Network” Moment, but what I now realize that I was really hoping for was an Aaron Sorkin authored speech like President Shepard in The American President. “It’s time for serious people, Bob, and your 15 minutes are up.” But this is real life and not a movie. It’s not that easy. It’s complex, dirty and messy. It’s not always pretty but we usually get it done. Again, we did here. Usually the complexity and messiness of life (and especially politics) lends itself to compromise. We understand our republican form of government and that freedom/democracy/etc. requires compromise and bargaining. In many cases like this one, we take that for granted. I think President Obama assumed, we now see wrongly, that Republican would feel pressure from “the system” or from the media or from within themselves as adults to compromise on this issue.
But they didn’t.
They held strongly to a few core principles of the GOP’s platform and came out of this proposed deal as the principal authors and victors. I’m surprised but not shocked. Again, I have no idea what to think about the actual implications and realities of the economics of the whole thing. Will it work? Is it the right course at this time? I don’t know. It doesn’t seem like it, but who knows at this point?
Politically speaking, it was fascinating to watch. I’m very curious whether the American people are so fed up with the petty bickering over the last few weeks that they’ll hold it against the Republicans for the remainder of the term or if the Republicans played their cards right and will come out looking better than the President. Voters don’t seem to have a very long attention span. We could have forgotten all about this but next year this time. On the other hand, if we don’t hold these people accountable for what they have said and done this summer, than we cannot complain when politicans resort to extortion to get what they want. At this point, why wouldn’t they?