Saturday, January 19, 2013

A good day for sanity

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It may be that "the House GOP is adopting a minority posture," as The Hill suggests, or it may just be that they finally realized that their hostage-taking strategy was a political loser, but whatever the case it was indeed a good day for sanity in Washington with Republicans backing off debt ceiling armageddon and, while still posturing stupidly (no pay for Congress? -- how unconstitutional), conceding that they won't in fact take the country to the brink of economic meltdown to get their extremist right-wing way on fiscal policy.

And it is a significant victory for President Obama. As Jon Chait wrote yesterday:

The main credit here goes to the Obama administration for recognizing that enmeshing the debt ceiling with policy negotiations was a horrible idea that it had to stop dead in its tracks. To let debt ceiling hikes become contingent on fiscal policy agreements was to set up endless future crises that would eventually trigger default when one party or another held out for a little too much.

The whole key to making Obama's extortion-squelching plan, and saving American government from endless cycles of hostage drama that would eventually end in a default, was to credibly insist that he would not trade anything for a debt ceiling hike. After he moved his red line on tax cuts, I doubted that Obama could really make this stick. But he has. 

Even after the president's repeated concessions to Republicans, even after he showed time and time again that he was willing to give up a great deal to get a deal done, on issue after issue, even after he seemed to give up his post-election leverage to push a bad fiscal cliff deal through the Senate earlier this month, I was hopeful that he would stand firm on the debt ceiling and take a firmer line on fiscal policy going forward, refusing to give in to Republican terrorism on Capitol Hill. We'll see how the budget discussions go, but on the debt ceiling at least he deserves our enthusiastic applause.

And it's good to see that some, like Paul Krugman, are pleasantly surprised at this turn of events:

When you're wrong, you're wrong. I thought that by ruling out any way to bypass the debt limit, the White House was setting itself up, at least potentially, for an ignominious cave-in. But it appears that the strategy has worked, and it's the Republicans giving up. I'm happy to concede that the president and team called this one right.

And he provides some helpful perspective:

The key point to remember here is that Obama achieves his main goals simply by surviving. Above all, health reform gets implemented, and probably becomes irreversible.

It's Krugman who calls it "a good day for sanity." And I'm glad he was proven wrong.

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