…the winner in any negotiation is the party who cares less about reaching an agreement.
Some liberals (and yes, I consider myself one) are furious at President Obama for the deal he crafted with Republicans. Essentially, Obama traded tax cuts for people making over $250,000 a year and an estate tax solution that keeps the tax, with a lower rate and higher deduction than would have returned come January 1st, for a 13 month extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. There’s other stuff in there, too – a reduction in payroll taxes that, while likely to be stimulative, has progressives worried about social security.
And there’s that whole thing about making a deal with Republicans.
Me? I can’t get too worked up about it. Here’s why, and I’ll say it slowly:
This was a negotiation the Republicans were always going to win, and Obama was always going to lose.
The premise behind a lot of lefty angst is that Obama “caved” – that if he’d stuck to his guns, he could have gotten a better deal; that the GOP wouldn’t dare have people’s unemployment insurance end, essentially, at Christmas. That their Bush tax cuts were too sacred to let expire.
This assumes, of course, that Republicans cared about any of those things, and I can assure you, from my perch thousands of miles away, that they did not.
Here were the choices for the GOP – make a deal, and get credit for keeping taxes low (it’s their brand, for better or worse), or not make a deal, and blame Barack Obama for the huge tax increase that they all voted for years ago.
For all the GOP talk about how no one’s taxes should go up in a recession, or, actually, ever, I suspect they’d have been ecstatic is Obama had held the line and everybody’s taxes went up last year. Just as they don’t care if unemployment runs out for the jobless, they really don’t care that much about tax rates for the rich.
Let me repeat: They don’t care.
There are lots of things, of course, they don’t care about: governance, the environment, and balancing the budget, to name a few – but what they do care about is political power and winning the news cycle. And they think (and the last 18 months haven’t convinced them otherwise) that the latter leads to the former.
So, I say again: this was a negotiation that Obama couldn’t win and Republicans couldn’t lose. I suspect, given that Obama used the term “hostage” with respect to the GOP’s behavior on this issue, he gets it, and took the smallest shit sandwich he could find out of the vending machine and took a bite.
As for me, the professional left doesn’t pay very well, and if they’re upset that Obama made this deal, too fucking bad. They’re on the sidelines and Obama is in the game.
For more on the “I woulda gotten you more” fallacy, go here.