Tuesday, July 26, 2011

An Amateur's Political Theory


(1) I ordinarily don’t publicly get into politics.
(2) I have no inside information.
(3) I “know” only what I watch/read/hear on various media.
(4) I am a fan of “No Labels” and the Coffee Party who wishes we had a viable moderate 3rd party option.
(5) I am accomplished at putting 2 and 2 together and coming up with 5.
(6) I am not completely without sense.

Now the theory:

Last year Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the GOP’s top priority was to deny President Obama a second term. My theory (which probably is not original to me but I’ve not read or heard it elsewhere) is that the Republican strategy on the debt ceiling “negotiations” is to box the President into a situation where, no matter what he does, it will severely cripple his chances of re-election.

My theory holds that they have accomplished their goal through two shrewd maneuvers.

Maneuver #1

By holding the vote to raise the debt ceiling hostage to the “No Tax” oath that so many of the them have made to Grover Norquist, the Republicans have apparently maneuvered the President into agreeing that whatever deal is struck will lead to no revenue increases, not even those that would come from closing loopholes or allowing some tax cuts to expire, but will include large cuts to programs that help people that Democrats have traditionally cared a lot about helping.

That maneuver hurts the President with his base and thus hurts his chances to be re-elected.

Maneuver #2

House Speaker John Boehner’s plan, should it arrive on the President’s desk, would put the President in the position of either (a) signing a bill that he has said is unacceptable because it raises the debt ceiling for only six months, meaning that we’d right back then where we are now or (b) vetoing that bill, an act that would cause the United States to default on some of its obligations.

In the case of (a) the President would be embroiled in a second round of brutal debt ceiling negotiations in the midst of his re-election campaign while in the case of (b) he would be placed in the position of being blamed for a likely financial meltdown of historic proportions.

I realize that the experts think that Boehner’s plan might not pass the House because some Republicans think it doesn’t go far enough in making budget cuts and that if it does pass the House it will never get through the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Isn’t it just possible, though, that Speaker Boehner and his colleagues are betting that, when the House and Senate are up against the August 2 deadline, they will pass his plan, if they see no way to get anything else through, so they will not be held responsible for causing the first default in U.S. government history? Someone might say, “Isn’t it just as possible that, following the same logic, the House and Senate will agree on Sen. Harry Reid’s plan, which the President has said he would sign?” to which I say, “Well, haven’t the Republicans won every stare-down contest to this point in this process?”

If, out of desperation to avoid being held responsible for defaulting on our obligations, the House and Senate pass the Boehner plan thereby forcing the President to sign it (which my guess is he would have to do) or to veto it (which he might do but I have a hard time seeing it), he will either way be crippled politically almost certainly beyond his ability to recover.

And the Republican’s main objective, as articulated by Sen. McConnell last year, will have been accomplished—regardless of its cost to the standing and stability of the nation.

Politically, it is brilliant.

On all other counts, history will be the judge.


PhilipMeade.com said...

I don't even know what the heck a "debt ceiling" is, but it sounds like something I should probably implement in my own life. There goes that new 64" HD television.

Don't you think that Boehner looks like he should be on the dark side of the force?

Michael Ruffin said...

Yes he does. But there's no crying on the dark side...

Scott Rushing said...

Wow, so many disclaimers!

Before I add my own 2 cents, allow me to add my own: I have not been following this debate as closely as I should, nor normally would. My head has been stuck in the sand, aka the library.

So here goes:

Is there no plan being offered that both reduces spending and raises taxes? I am no fan of raising taxes, especially in a depressed economy; however, I do not see any way to begin chipping away at a $14 trillion debt without some increase in revenue. Sure, a rebounding economy would increase tax revenues, but I do not see anyone predicting that will happen any time soon.

I suspect that by the time this issue gets resolved, the "solution" will involve some combination of the two...only because in that scenario, both sides can claim "victory" while simultaneously attacking the other.