For months, I had assumed that the Republican leadership would be able to find support within its caucus for option No. 2. Based on John Boehner’s brief flirtation with a “grand bargain” that would have included tax reform, the speaker of the House thought so as well.
But based on how quickly he abandoned that flirtation, it appears we were both mistaken. The result was a hanging curveball for President Obama, who spent last week posing as the Last Reasonable Man in Washington, contrasting his willingness to compromise on entitlements with the House Republicans’ intransigence on taxes.
To conservatives, this has been a galling spectacle. A president who spent his first two years in office taking spending to a historic high is accusing them of fiscal irresponsibility? A president who spent the spring demagoguing House Republicans for their willingness to restructure Medicare is citing a much more modest set of cuts as evidence of his fiscal seriousness?
But this fury misses the point. Obama has been playing the reasonability card so successfully because his opponents won’t (or can’t) play one of their own.
Did you see the sleight of hand? Obama’s not really reasonable, he’s just pretending to be, and Obama is to blame for the economic disaster created by Republicans, and no mention of the fact that the GOP was eased into power by… demagoguing Medicare in 2010 then immediately voting to end it. Once again, Dave Leonhardt (really Ross, he works in the same building. I’m sure he could fill you in on this stuff):
The story of today’s deficits starts in January 2001, as President Bill Clinton was leaving office. The Congressional Budget Office estimated then that the government would run an average annual surplus of more than $800 billion a year from 2009 to 2012. Today, the government is expected to run a $1.2 trillion annual deficit in those years.
You can think of that roughly $2 trillion swing as coming from four broad categories: the business cycle, President George W. Bush’s policies, policies from the Bush years that are scheduled to expire but that Mr. Obama has chosen to extend, and new policies proposed by Mr. Obama.
The first category — the business cycle — accounts for 37 percent of the $2 trillion swing. It’s a reflection of the fact that both the 2001 recession and the current one reduced tax revenue, required more spending on safety-net programs and changed economists’ assumptions about how much in taxes the government would collect in future years.
About 33 percent of the swing stems from new legislation signed by Mr. Bush. That legislation, like his tax cuts and the Medicare prescription drug benefit, not only continue to cost the government but have also increased interest payments on the national debt.
Mr. Obama’s main contribution to the deficit is his extension of several Bush policies, like the Iraq war and tax cuts for households making less than $250,000. Such policies — together with the Wall Street bailout, which was signed by Mr. Bush and supported by Mr. Obama — account for 20 percent of the swing.
About 7 percent comes from the stimulus bill that Mr. Obama signed in February. And only 3 percent comes from Mr. Obama’s agenda on health care, education, energy and other areas.
Back to Douthat- that is how it is done. Lie through omission about the cause of our financial woes, claim the President’s policies aren’t really reasonable and that he is just pretending to be, and completely ignore the fact that the Republicans are batshit insane. Last week’s Ross Douthat, still fluffing the crazy party, assured us this was all GOP strategery. Today’s Ross Douthat, while continuing to apply unflinching suction to the GOP, wonders what went wrong.
What went wrong? Maybe they listened to idiots like Douthat, or maybe they feel unconstrained by reality because they always know Ross will be there for them to give them a wet sloppy one. And he knows he will always get a check for his services, be that at the NY Times, or if that doesn’t pan out, there is always the Heritage Foundation or the Pacific Institute or some other wingnut welfare pub to push his drivel.
It’s all in the game.