Better To Fight The Shutdown Now Instead of at the Debt Ceiling?

Looks like the probability of a shutdown is now very high. As far as I read the situation, they haven’t even begun to negotiate the extra parts of the budget like defunding Planned Parenthood, going after the EPA, etc., which I think is equally important for the base.

I haven’t been following the back-and-forth between the House Republicans and Senate Democrats that closely, but I think the aggregate back and forth of:

Democrats:  “$10”
Republicans: “$30”
Democrats: “$30”
Republicans: “$40. I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.”

Is pretty typical Lucy and the Football dynamics for the Democrats. Why was the opening bid $10bn instead of increasing the deficit to hire workers and expand infrastructure spending again?

A government shutdown is going to be really painful thing for many Americans. But there is a silver lining if it happens – better now than during the debt ceiling fight. If the Democrats go $40bn in cuts and it passes, the Republican base will think one of two things:  (1) We need to push harder next time because we didn’t get $60bn cuts or (2) if we go guns blazing and irresponsibility threaten the functioning of the country we get what we want.  It’s like they get to be that person in philosophy thoughts experiments who drinks the “I will not act rationally” potion, which prevents anyone from offering them a deal that might work.

Either of these outcomes would be a really bad lesson for the new, mobilized conservative base in Congress going into the next battle over the debt ceiling.  And if this dynamic plays out all over again with the debt ceiling, it would be far, far worse. As Bo Cutter mentioned in his interview on the shutdown battle:

Bryce Covert: Are there other differences between the last shutdown and now that you foresee making this one better, worse, or different?

Bo Cutter: It’s more the politics of controlling it. When we went through it, Newt Gingrich had come in with the Contract with America. The new Republicans believed, and the evidence was pretty good, that the reason they were elected was that Gingrich had managed to nationalize a whole set of local elections and it was sort of the power of his thinking that created their election opportunity. So they were with him lock stock and barrel and he had real control over his caucus. No one ever has complete control over everything and the control began to ebb, but he had it. Today the circumstances are really different in that Boehner does not have control over the Republican caucus. Large numbers of the tea party members don’t have any interest whatsoever in figuring out the rational answer to all of this. So you have a really fundamentally different condition of political management. Clinton was reasonably certain, and at our lower levels in the conversations we were reasonably certain, that if the Republicans committed to do something when we finally began negotiations about how to end it, they could follow through on whatever it was they committed to. It’s not clear here….

I also think that from the point of view of the management of the next fights, both the country and President Obama will be better off if there’s one now. This is small potatoes. But we are about to see the debt limit debate. And there are people on the Republican side who actually believe that risking a default isn’t a bad thing. I think it’s an awful thing. I think it’s really, really reckless. And I don’t have any confidence that the Republican tea party members are going to come to that realization soon enough and they could play a real game of chicken. That’s different than the shutdown stuff. The shutdown occurs gradually and it would have to last quite a while before the results really, really hit.

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3 Responses to Better To Fight The Shutdown Now Instead of at the Debt Ceiling?

  1. Pingback: Rifts Within Both Parties Test Leaders in Budget Fight « Brandon Dale Bowers' Blog

  2. Pingback: Other Voices – April 8, 2011 – Analyst Blog « Stock Picks

  3. Pingback: » Blog Archive » MILQUETOAST

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