Anyone who has been watching the political news shows recently has seen a familiar sight: Speaker of the House John Boehner is unhappy with President Obama. According to nearly everyone in the world of punditry, the country is facing a fiscal disaster and both sides better come to the table with sound ideas to resolve the problem…or else. “The President’s idea of negotiation is ‘roll over and do what I ask’…and “We need to find common ground and we need to find it quickly,” said Boehner during an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News. Mitch McConnell complained earlier in the week that the President should have been talking with congressional leaders but, instead, he took his campaign-style show on the road to talk directly to voters.
Other than the fact that their demand to have tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans stay in place what, exactly, is upsetting the GOP? Some speculate that congressional Republicans have become so used to the President rolling over and succumbing to their demands that they’re now in a state of disbelief that the President is negotiating from a stronger position. Others say that the real issue is that with such low approval ratings and having lost their chance to occupy the White House, the Republicans have to employ their strategy of pretending that the election never happened so that the obvious won’t become clear: they don’t have a budget plan.
“Here’s where we are right now: As his opening bid in negotiations, Mr. Obama has proposed raising about $1.6 trillion in additional revenue over the next decade, with the majority coming from letting the high-end Bush tax cuts expire and the rest from measures to limit tax deductions. He would also cut spending by about $400 billion, through such measures as giving Medicare the ability to bargain for lower drug prices.”
In prior “negotiations” with the GOP, Mr. Obama laid bare all of his plans and expected them to come to the table in good faith with proposals of their own. There were no real proposals — just demands. And, much of the time, they got what they wanted by holding the middle class hostage. When negotiations went sour, the result was trading off an extension of unemployment insurance and a ratings downgrade from Standard & Poors because of the instability that resulted from the political gamesmanship.
The GOP has demanded serious proposals but remained in the nebulous world of ‘we want spending cuts’ without specifying what those cuts would be. It’s clear that the GOP’s end game is to slash entitlement programs but — given that the President was just reelected in part because of his stance on saving Social Security and Medicare, and continued tax cuts for the middle class — they just don’t want to say that their goal is to cut or eliminate the very items that helped win the presidency.
As Mr. Krugman said, “Now Mr. Obama has demanded that the G.O.P. put up or shut up — and the response is an aggrieved mumble.” The Republicans simply did not count on the President growing weary of the games,they didn’t plan on him saying he was tired of negotiating with himself, and they certainly didn’t count on the President putting forth his original offer and waiting for them to do their job by coming up with at least a plausible response.