As he’s so good at historian Rick Perlstein explains things so well. An excerpt from his latest post, Our Obama Bargain.
We’ve arrived at a question of character, or deep psychological disposition. I’ve always thought of Barack Obama’s obsession with a “Grand Bargain”—Democrats give something on spending, Republicans give something on taxes—as having very little to do at all with concrete policy questions. After all, the austerity Obama seems to want has more and more been revealed as bad policy. Bad politics, too, of course. More and more, in fact, I wonder whether in some deep wellspring of his being this isn’t ultimately the point: if it’s bad, then it must be good. After all, he’s always said such deals should “hurt.” In the rhetoric of hurt lives the magic thinking: that the pain in itself makes for noble transcendence. In itself—not in the policy outcome. [Emphasis added]
There’s something so arbitrary about it, so cliché: pick the one thing that Republicans are supposed to cherish most (tax cuts!). Pick the one thing Democrats are supposed to cherish most (spending!). If you get both to give up what they cherish, something transcendent has occurred; something mystical; something deep, deep inside America’s soul—healing!
It’s almost as if, were the Democrats’ most cherished nostrum was that the sky is blue; and if the Republicans’ most cherished nostrum were that the sky is red, Obama somehow imagines that if he can somehow get both to agree that the sky is purple, lo and behold, America will finally be a warm and conciliatory place.
But guess what! The sky is blue!
To cash out the allegory: Guess what! Spending more during a recession, and keeping faith with Medicare and Social Security, which are not in imminent crisis anyway, is great for the well-being of the country!
And guess what! Even if feckless Democrats are glad to entertain the notion that the sky just might be purple, pronouncing themselves as eager to cut spending as Republicans (vitiating, by the way, the very premise that big spending is some sort of hard-shell Democratic shibboleth), insane, Leninist Republicans will never, ever, ever, ever, ever stray from their conviction that it is red—in other words, that tax cuts magically create prosperity, always and everywhere, every time. Why, here’s Rush Limbaugh braying that very thing the other day.
And yet, for Obama work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die—that we can, all of us, some day, agree about things that are not true, that really help no one, but that, by mere virtue of the agreement, will render us no longer Red America and Blue America but the United States of American. And the sky? Everyone will say it is purple. And this will be counted as a great victory.
To be continued. Next time I write about Barack Obama’s biography—and try to puzzle through where this perverse conception of the ways of the world comes from.
I think that shows that Obama’s goal is to get a so-called grand bargain (SCGB) no matter the consequences. And that’s not why he was reelected, The President’s Priorities Are Not In Order.
I’m not entirely sure that’s what the election is about. It certainly wasn’t about the primacy of The Deficit among our various economic problems. Every time The American People get polled about the issues that are most important to them, including in the exit polling done in real-time during the election the president just cited, The Deficit finishes pretty far up the track behind unemployment and a generic category called The Economy. What becomes important is in what way is that generic category defined. The general public seems to think that The Economy is defined by how many people are working and how many people are not. The political elite, including the president, and the courtier press that services that elite, all seem to define the economy through the deficit. The cognitive dissonance in Washington is about how best to deal with an economy defined by the deficit. The cognitive dissonance in the country is about how best to deal with an economy that is being defined at the highest levels of the government in a way that the rest of the country finds odd and inadequate. So when the general public hears the president say this…
As I said on the campaign, one component to growing our economy and broadening opportunity for the middle class is shrinking our deficits in a balanced and responsible way. And for nearly two years now I’ve been fighting for such a plan, one that would reduce our deficits by $4 trillion over the next decade, which would stabilize our debt and our deficit in a sustainable way for the next decade. That would be enough not only to stop the growth of our debt relative to the size of our economy, but it would make it manageable so it doesn’t crowd out the investments we need to make in people and education and job training and science and medical research — all the things that help us grow.
…it thinks the president has his priorities in the wrong order. When he talks about The American People, and the Middle Class thereof, he ought not to convince himself that he was re-elected because he’s the guy who’ll best bring down The Deficit. He got re-elected because the other guy convinced America that he wouldn’t much care if people ate grass by the side of the road. The people who voted for this president did not do so because they wanted a balanced program to bring down the deficit. They did so because they thought he was less likely to make their everyday lives harder than they already are. Because, as the blog’s First Law Of Economics states: Fk The Deficit. People Got No Jobs. People Got No Money.
As Atrios says, “..if you fix the jobs problem you largely fix the deficit problem. The reverse is not true. If you “fix” the deficit you kill the jobs.” It’s really that simple put people back to work and the economy will be fine. No a SCGB that’s neither grand or a bargain for the people of this country.