Ezra Klein: By Celebrating Spending Cuts, Democrats Have Opened The Door To More Austerity Measures


I have to say that I'm in agreement with Ezra Klein here. After the budget deal was reached with Republicans and the President and Harry Reid came out praising the deal as some great bipartisan achievement, I felt the same way he did when he talked to Lawrence O'Donnell about it last night. All they did is validate the Republican's agenda for more spending cuts at a time when our economy cannot afford it. And they just made it a lot harder to push back against any future austerity measures the Republicans demand when they start debating Paul Ryan's horrible budget proposal.

And as I said in my earlier post with Chris Hayes and Howard Fineman's reaction to the budget deal, I do not understand how President Obama or the Democrats believe that alienating their base helps them win the next election. And by his base, I'm not talking about myself or liberal bloggers. I'm talking about the working class and the poor in America who voted for him in the last election, and who are going to have to live with these cuts and the job losses they're going to cause.

They look like they're buying into the beltway Villagers' narrative and their constant drumbeat about how looking "like an adult" and "everyone getting along" is the most important thing, as though anyone who's just struggling to get by cares about any of that crap. They care if the policies you enact are helpful or harmful to their pocketbooks. They care about getting Americans back to work and outsourcing jobs. They care that we still have a middle class left in this country and that they're kids might have an opportunity to do better than they have economically as they make their way through life. What they don't care about is whether the two parties we've got running this country looked like they were getting along while they voted to approve horrid measures that are going to make their lives worse.

I understand just as Ezra does that the President and Reid didn't have any choice but to negotiate with the Republicans to keep from shutting down the government and they were going to have to agree to things that a lot of us weren't going to like. But don't go out there and make a deal for some crap sandwich where you didn't fight harder publicly for the people you're supposed to be representing and then tell the rest of us how good it's supposed to taste. I don't know if the rest of the public that doesn't follow all of this the same way I do is going to react the same way I did to the President's speech or what just got agreed to this week during this negotiation on the budget, but as Ezra pointed out in his piece at The Washington Post, this isn't 1995 and if the economy doesn't get better, Obama is not going to be remembered as a successful president.

Here's more from Klein's post and there's more there, so go read the whole thing, but his column pretty well just reiterates what he said in the video above with his initial reaction to this with Lawrence O'Donnell -- 2011 is not 1995:

The substance of this deal is bad. But the way Democrats are selling it makes it much, much worse.

The final compromise was $38.5 billion below 2010’s funding levels. That’s $78.5 billion below President Obama’s original budget proposal, which would’ve added $40 billion to 2010’s funding levels, and $6.5 billion below John Boehner’s original counteroffer, which would’ve subtracted $32 billion from 2010’s budget totals. In the end, the real negotiation was not between the Republicans and the Democrats, or even the Republicans and the White House. It was between John Boehner and the conservative wing of his party. And once that became clear, it turned out that Boehner’s original offer wasn’t even in the middle. It was slightly center-left.

But you would’ve never known it from President Obama’s encomium to the agreement. Obama bragged about “making the largest annual spending cut in our history.” Harry Reid joined him, repeatedly calling the cuts “historic.” It fell to Boehner to give a clipped, businesslike statement on the deal. If you were just tuning in, you might’ve thought Boehner had been arguing for moderation, while both Obama and Reid sought to cut deeper. You would never have known that Democrats had spent months resisting these “historic” cuts, warning that they’d cost jobs and slow the recovery. [...]

So why were Reid and Obama so eager to celebrate Boehner’s compromise with his conservative members? The Democrats believe it’s good to look like a winner, even if you’ve lost. But they’re sacrificing more than they let on. By celebrating spending cuts, they’ve opened the door to further austerity measures at a moment when the recovery remains fragile. Claiming political victory now opens the door to further policy defeats later. [...]

Right now, the economy is weak. Giving into austerity will weaken it further, or at least delay recovery for longer. And if Obama does not get a recovery, then he will not be a successful president, no matter how hard he works to claim Boehner’s successes as his own. Clinton’s speeches were persuasive because the labor market did a lot of his talking for him. But when unemployment is stuck at eight percent, there’s no such thing as a great communicator.

And here's more from Krugman who agrees with Klein -- Celebrating Defeat.


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