Sunday, October 6, 2013

gamesmanship vs. statesmanship

To mix metaphors, as befits our broken political system today, we are watching a slow motion train wreck that will propel us over the fiscal cliff. Everybody can see the disaster in the making, and almost everybody is spending more time trying to assure they won't be blamed than working for a solution.

The government needs to be funded and the debt limit raised to avoid default. A continuing resolution is the second stupidest way to allocate funds for government; the worst is the across the board sequester. But at least the CR is an easily understood tool, and it makes a deal easier because it's just about money, not other policy disputes.  The Republicans have failed repeatedly to block the new health care law, so they need to give way; the government shutdown is far worse for the country than the new law. Let the House vote on a clean CR!

Do intransigents deserve to have their faces saved? No, but it makes political sense for the Democrats  to offer something, not about health but about spending. The CR already has spending cuts to  this year's sequester level, so I suppose the spending deals have to be linked to the debt limit.

Is the President right to refuse negotiations on the shutdown and debt limit? Sure. He has enough experience to know that the current House GOP leadership can't deliver on its own deals. Are the Republicans hypocritical to call for negotiations after refusing to have them on the budget resolution for several months? Sure, but hypocrisy is as common in politics as mosquitoes in summer, and it's hard to get rid of both.

It's time for the insiders who care about the government and the economy to craft a package. The provisions don't have to be "negotiated," just put forward and supported by a critical mass of lawmakers. I don't have a package in mind, but I would expect it to recycle provisions like a super committee, or a time certain for an up-or-down vote on a tax reform deal, and maybe even some tweaks to Obamacare. Time is short.

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