Michael Wolraich's picture

    Debt Ceiling Dumb Show

    President enters stage left, beaming loftily at the Chorus.

    House Speaker enters right, arms crossed and scowling.

    President silently opens his hands as if presenting a gift. Speaker shakes his head angrily.

    President furrows his brow, points at his watch, and wags his finger. Speaker shakes his fist in the air and grimaces fiercely.

    Chorus members cover open mouths in alarm and look nervously at their watches.

    *    *    *

    It makes for good theater, and the audience is enthralled. Will Democrats cave to Republican demands for stiff budgets cuts as a condition for raising the debt ceiling? Will Republicans compromise on taxes? Are they actually crazy enough to drive the United States into bankruptcy?

    Given the breathless media coverage of the drama, you can be forgiven for thinking that you're witnessing a genuine conflict with serious economic consequences. In fact, what is you're watching is a charade--a dumb show, as it was called in Shakespeare's time.

    The apparent plausibility of the drama rests on two conceits:

    1. The conflict is a deadly game of chicken. If the parties do not agree to raise the debt ceiling by August 2nd or thereabouts, the U.S. will suddenly default, sparking a severe economic crisis.
    2. The Republicans might be crazy enough to do it.

    Let's start with 1). Economic crises are caused by perceptions. If investors come to believe that the U.S. cannot or will not make its debt payments, a severe crisis would ensue.

    But unlike the game of chicken in which death comes instantaneously, investor confidence won’t evaporate in an instant. Instead, anxiety will slowly rise as the Treasury runs low on accounting tricks to extend payment deadlines. That anxiety will have real, though limited effects--reduction of the government's bond rating, decline in the value of the dollar, and turmoil in the markets.

    In other words, instead of a sudden crash, there will be a gradual intensification of economic discomfort. Who will feel this discomfort most immediately and acutely? The bankers, investors, and businesspeople that politicians--especially Republican politicians--rely on for campaign capital.

    Which brings us to 2). The Republicans do sometimes seem awfully crazy in these days of Tea Party mania, and there are certainly some Republican legislators crazy or stupid enough to drive the U.S. into default, consequences be damned.

    But being politicians, the primary objective of most Republican legislators is to get reelected. Political analysts do not tend to regard ruining the fortunes of campaign donors as an effective re-election strategy.

    In short, when investors and business people start losing money because of the debt ceiling charade, they will urgently call their Republican representatives. When that happens, some of those representatives will capitulate. It will only take about 25 to join the Democrats in raising the debt ceiling. Most likely, the Republican leadership will cut a face-saving deal before it reaches that point.

    And so, sooner or later, the two parties will agree on symbolic but inconsequential budget actions, and Congress will once again vote to increase the debt ceiling, as it has done 74 times since 1962.

    The party leaders surely realize how it will play out. They could easily wrap up negotiations tomorrow.

    But that would deprive the actors of their stage time. House Speaker John Boehner has to perfect his pantomime of ideological pugnacity in order to seduce angry Tea Party voters. President Obama must develop his portrayal of a serious post-partisan statesman in order to attract independent voters. The media chorus needs high drama in order to sell tickets.

    And so, the show must go on. Pass the popcorn.

    Michael Wolraich (@wolraich) is the author of Blowing Smoke: Why the Right Keeps Serving Up Whack-Job Fantasies about the Plot to Euthanize Grandma, Outlaw Christmas, and Turn Junior into a Raging Homosexual.



    Genghis eats a few more funny mushrooms.

    I'm a little worried that the Republicans are incompetent -- they think Geithner's deadline is a lie (or just a negotiating tactic), so they push it too far and do what they never intended to do in the first place.

    The point is that Republican donors are not incompetent--or at least not insensitive to economic loss. They will make sure that the Republicans don't go too far.

    Heh. But do they control the rank and file TPers? I think not. Why look at what just happened in Connecticut. I mean, the unions were offered a sweet deal. 57% of them voted for these concessions, which hurt, but not too much. Unfortunately they need a super majority (14 out of 15 unions have to approve it,) rather than a simple majority.

    The stickler? According to a caller and commenter on a local NPR show, a lot of people were "confused" by a rather mundane cost-cutting measure which didn't actually hurt at all: If they didn't attend their own doctors prescribed visits, medications, etc. they'd be put into a more expensive plan; IOW wellcare. It was estimated to save the state 118 million or some such, and they thought it was big socialist ObamaGubmint telling them when they had to see the doctor.

    And where do you think they picked up that little gem of disinformation? Gee. Hmmm.

    The rank and file, even the big donors are basically brainwashed, or possibly even brain dead.

    Now, the reality of the situation has set in, and the truth explained for the umpteenth time, and this time, in the face of 7500 job cuts, there has been a bit of penetration, there will likely be a new vote. Did they screw things up and make their own lives miserable and anxiety ridden for the foresseable future? Youbetcha! And a lot of other peoples like me too, who will have to work harder, longer, and get paid less in wages and pay more in taxes to handle the influx of unemployed.

    I have no doubt that they will run the U.S. House to ruin in exactly the same fashion.

    I wouldn't be too smug. If you have stock, sell it. They really aren't crazy, just stoooopid.

    Most Republican congresspeople are not TPs. Only about 25 Republicans have to vote with Dems to raise the debt ceiling.

    I thought we were talking about the constituents. As you said, the Republicans want, most of all, to be reelected. I don't see major donors, like the Kochs, backing down anytime soon.

    The Koch's have money to lose. In the end, they feel that the short term loss is worth it because they will in the end gain more.

    THAT is why they keep throwing as much crap onto the wall. A lot of it IS sticking...

    The Kochs donations only make up a tiny percentage of the overall donations that Republicans receive--particularly the more moderate Republicans who would be likely to break and vote to raise the debt ceiling.

    Everyone around here belives that corporations control the government, right? You know whio represents corporate interests? Not the Koch's. The US Chamber of Commerce. You know what the Chamber of Commerce feels about the debt ceiling?

    [President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Tom] Donohue was asked if Congress was going to raise the debt ceiling.

    Yes, it will be raised, Donohue answered, mainly because the country can not afford to not pay its bills. To those newly-elected representatives who say they aren’t going to raise the debt ceiling and will shut down government, Donohue said the U.S. Chamber has its own message: “We’ll get rid of you.”


    Too bad he blunted that message with an even more condescending one::

    He then went on to praise U.S. House Speaker John Boehner for his Congressional leadership.

    “He’s growing into his shorts,” Donohue said. “He’s put on his big boy pants.”


    I remember thinking when I read that that it would come back and bite him.  

    There's a subtle gotcha the market can play in the fiasco that is being discounted. Once the dust settles and the bonds are offered, they may very well demand a few more basis points as insurance because I seriously doubt the debate will be settled ... it'll be more like an undeclared truce waiting for another time when the winds and wheels of fortune are in their favor. The problem is, those few basis points isn't chump change when compared to the amount of money being financed by the deficit. In other words, it will take more moeny to finance the current debt than it did before the GOPer's and tea-baggers threw their tissy-fits.

    I wonder about that, too.  Investors could well, and rationally, demand a "you have crazy people in your government" premium.

    Yes.  Which means that anyone treating this as just another, typical negotiating maneuver that's par for the course in Washington is cutting the GOP a break on this they don't deserve.  Regardless of what the outcome is, they've already done significant damage by introducing a type of uncertainty that, to my knowledge, has never previously been introduced into the affairs of this country.

    Awhile back the late NY Senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, coined a phrase: the dumbing down of deviancy.  What he meant was that behavior that use to be considered deviant no longer was, that only more extreme behavior had come to elicit that label.  

    I think of what the GOP is pulling by threatening to defeat or block the bill raising the debt ceiling as--if they are allowed to get away with it--dumbing outrageousness down. 

    Will what would have been viewed just a few weeks ago as utterly outrageous, reckless, irresponsible, disqualifying, beyond-the-pale (take your pick) behavior by a political party no longer be seen as any of those, but rather as the new normal?  Will blackmail, a lay if not legal understanding of treason, or both, come to be accepted as just a new way for today's Radical Republican party to do business, supplementing the threatening or initiating of impeachment proceedings, and the shutting down of the government brought into the GOP's arsenal of weapons of national destruction over the past 15 years?    

    Only if the Republicans ignore the investors' increasing concerns--which they will not do. The investors may not trust the nutty Tea Baggers, but they still view the GOP leadership as reliable defenders of the markets, not without reason.

    But The Boner is attempting to control the tea-baggers by accepting whatever he deals can get Obama to surrender for passing a new, but lower than required debt ceiling. I think he's only giving investors a half an ear ... taking them for suckers. He's looking to garner as much manuevering room as he can before it gets close to crunch  time. In other words, he's playing both investors and tea-baggers to give the Party a sharper edge knowing full well neither will shift their support to the Democrats.

    Well, these are just questions about which gestures and words in this negotiation are bluff and which are earnest threats.   But that doesn't alter the fact that there is a real negotitiation going on that is going to have a real outcome.   And the range of political action by the participants is as much determined by what the public perceives to be real as it is by what actually is real.

    Yes, there is a real debate going on, but it has little to do with the debt ceiling. Wait for the 2012 budget.

    A 'Dumb Show' it is not. A less superficial view into the debt ceiling issue comes from Krugman's column today, and the responses of some NYT readers excerpts from readers below:

    Comment #8....the idea that destroying the full faith and credit of the United States is something to be avoided at all costs is not something the Republicans actually buy in to. If your goal is to starve the beast, what better way to accomplish your end than to ensure that nobody will ever buy your bonds again?  We are witnessing the entire dismantling of the New Deal. We are watching as the radical right destroys the covenant that has existed between the government and the people for over seventy years......

    Comment #9..Cantor, Boehner, Mitchell and the rest of the Republican caucus, who constitute a minority faction of our elected representatives, are engaging in terrorism, pure and simple. If Democrats cave in to their demands, there is no reason to believe that debt-celing showdowns will not become a regular feature of Congress. But if that's the case, then what we have is minority rule, a violation of one of the central principles of democracy. ... 


    NCD, "starve the beast" is part of Republican ideology, but you assume that at least 90 percent of Republicans are so committed to their ideology that they will screw their donors.

    Whereas I assume that far more than 10 percent of Republicans (I'd hazard 75 percent) are more concerned with reelection than ideology.

    If Obama holds all the cards, as you say, why has he been so willing to compromise?

    The proof will be in the pudding as the saying goes.

    That God's Own Party shut down Minnesota today indicates that they are not afraid to close government to prevent tax increases on the rich, whether they are so inclined to bankrupt the Treasury, even temporarily, for the same reasons is yet to be known.

    As Krugman says they raised the debt limit 7 times under 'Saddam Getter' Bush over his 8 years with nary a fuss.

    Of course they did. Because very few of them really care about the debt ceiling. They care about reelection, and defying a tax-cutting Republican president was not going to earn them any votes. Defying a socialist tax-and-spender, on the other hand...

    But the debt ceiling has immediate economic impact. It will change the political calculus.

    I really don't get what you're saying, Genghis.  The thrust of your point seems to be that the Republicans have no leverage, because their donors will rebel against financial chaos and default risk.

    But it seems unlikely to me that there will be financial chaos or default risk.  The government pulls in plenty of revenue sufficient to pay its debt obligations to its creditors, and also keep essential services funded and running.  The treasury secretary will make it absolutely clear that creditors have nothing at all to fear - not a single debt service payment will be missed.  Yes, lots of regular people who are not invested in the government bond markets, but who receive checks of some kind from the government for services rendered, won't be paid money they were owed or were expecting from Uncle Sam, but most of them aren't Republicans.  The Republican donors and the financial big boys will all be fine.

    If the Congress is really determined to get the Federal government to slash its spending - through these unconventional means - I suspect it can succeed in getting the government to slash its spending.   So I suggest Obama stop focusing so much on defending the general principle of taking on more debt to fund existing spending programs whatever they are, and start defending the actual programs in full-throated terms.  He should also defend the need for countercyclical spending to create more jobs.  But he has gone so far down the opposite road, I don't know how he makes that argument now without looking like a putz.

    This negotiation would be much more comfortable for Democrats if it was between a President who wanted to expand spending - as we should be doing in our awful recession with its awful jobless "recovery" - and a  Republican House than wanted to slash it.  Then maybe meeting in the middle wouldn't be so terrible.   But since we now have a negotiation between two addled and ignorant neo-Hooverite camps, one that wants to slash spending dramatically, and one that wants to slash it, but just not so much, we are doomed to a rotten and recessionary outcome.

    Every time the adminsitration stokes financial hysteria over budgets and debts and potential default issues, it plays into the Republican narrative - which is that we have a dangerously inflated budget which creates scary debt and potential default issues.  Democrats need to get out of the stupid debt side-debate and change the subject.  Some members of Congress have started to do this.  But so far it doesn't look like Obama gets the message.

    Why doesn't Obama make a short, to-the-point speech that makes it plain that the likely effect of passing the August 2 deadline without a deal is not default and financial crisis, but massive job loss.  The argument should be that by turning off additional debt funding, the Republicans are going to throw another huge additional collection of Americans out of work.  All of those firms that don't get their expected money from the government are going to respond by laying people off.   Obama would understand this important point, if he didn't have so many Republican neurons compromising his cognitive functioning.

    Dan, am I using the available information incorrectly?


    If you take the US Federal Spending and subtract the US Federal Revenue the US Federal Deficit is 1.3 trillion dollars. It appears the revenue is not enough to cover the spending.

    Right.   It's not enough to cover spending.  But the $2.2 trillion in annual revenue is enough to cover interest on the debt, which is part of that spending and at fiscal 2010 year end was $413 billion.   My expectation is that Treasury will never miss an interest payment, and that bondholders know that.  The spending cuts will be made elsewhere, and they won't hurt the big financial donors of either party.  They will hurt many ordinary people, and lead to further job losses in the US.

    Some of those people are Republicans.  It would remain to be seen whom they blame when they don't get the checks they were expecting from the government.   If they are Republicans, it is likely they believe the country is full of moochers sucking on the government teat, and that someone else's checks should be stopped, but not theirs.  They might blame the administration for bad spending cut priorities, rather than blame the Republicans for forcing spending cuts.

    Remember that the US does get to continue borrowing following Auguest 2.  During every period, some Federal government debt is retired, as bonds come to maturity and are paid off.  The government can continue to borrow by selling new bonds.  It just can't exceed the total debt ceiling cap.

    The US could possibly avert a default that way but not a confidence crisis. Even if every creditor were satisfied, the anticipation of an even larger recession (plus political chaos) would be enough to send the markets plummeting and lower our bond rating.

    But regardless of the actual impact of missing August 2nd, Obama should make that speech about jobs. I don't know why he doesn't talk more about jobs in general. Even if his head is full of Republican neurons, it would be an effective rhetorical strategy. Heck, Republicans whose craniums are stuffed full or Republican neurons talk about jobs more than Obama--cuz ya know, cutting taxes creates jobs.

    the anticipation of an even larger recession (plus political chaos) would be enough to send the markets plummeting and lower our bond rating.

    I don't know about that.   We are still in the worst recession since the Great Depression.   Did our bond rating go down?

    But you said our AAA credit rating would be jeapordized by recession fears, Ghengis.   We have been living through a very major recession since 2008, and it didn't affect our stellar credit rating one whit.  So I don't think there is much reason for thinking that fears of recession are leading to any financial turmoil based on fears of government insolvency and default.   Recession or no recession, or credit rating soars along at AAA level.

    Moody's is claiming they may have to reappraise the credit rating not due to recession fears, but due to very slight increased probability of a government default which - in their political difference-splitting way - they attribute to the combination of failure to act on the debt ceiling and failure to act on the deficit.  In other words, they pin this slight increased probability of default on the failure of both sides to come up with a new budget deal.

    But there will be no default, even if the debt ceiling isn't raised.  The Treasury Department will make that abundantly clear.  Moody's will not downgrade our bonds, and our rating will stay high.

    The Chamber of Commerce statement is more significant, to my mind.  Whatever Republicans pretend to believe, they know that all of that government spending represents someone's income, and that the people receiving that income are someone's customers, and that those customers in turn provide jobs, which represent someone else's income, etc.  The Chamber of Commerce represents businesses.  And those businesses derive a lot of revenue from all the federal money that is pumped out into the economy.   And businesses, not Treasury bond investors, are indeed worried about the new recession that is being cooked up by the austerity mongers in both Europe and the United States.

    Which again, leads me to the point that what Democrats should be harping on is not the risk of default and financial turmoil.  If the debt ceiling doesn't get raised, and the alleged financial turmoil and bond degradings don't happen, Democrats will look like they are crying wolf - which they probably are.   It is the risk of more recession and more job loss that is the issue.  What Obama should be defending is the government spending which is absolutely vital to keep up in these recessionary times to support jobs and incomes.   But having gone so far in accepting the Republican doctrine that current levels of government spending are a bad, bad thing that we need to "get under control,"  Obama has left himself poorly positioned to defend what used to be common sense among Democrats and most mainstream people: that countercyclical government spending, fianced by deficits, is a good thing during a recession.

    Why doesn't Obama make a short, to-the-point speech that makes it plain that the likely effect of passing the August 2 deadline without a deal is not default and financial crisis, but massive job loss

    What "deal" would that be?  There should be no need for any "deal" on this.  Or rather the deal is: The President and members of Congress opposed to job-killing, economically illiterate, half-cocked, jackbooted, blackmailing thugs trying to run our government and country into the ground beat the living bejeebers out of them in public, if that proves necessary.  Public opinion polls show the hostage-takers taking a massive drubbing.  There develops concern, maybe even some fear in GOP circles, that, on top of the Medicare issue, this extremist stance by the GOP threatens what has been seen as a possibility of winning not only the White House, but the Senate as well.  

    The Administration and those members of Congress willing to extend the debt ceiling win, those holding it hostage lose.  End of story.  Some might call that moral clarity.  

    If the GOP doesn't cry uncle and cave on this--no conditions, no concessions--Democratic elected officials keep beating the shit out of them publicly until they do.  End of story.  

    An unambiguous "we win, they lose" may be a concept hard for beaten-down Democats to grasp at this point. Something our party should consider doing more of.

    What am I missing here?  

    My concern is that Obama privately wants to make some cuts to social insurance programs to please some major editorial writers and perhaps win over some moderates and independents for his "political courage" in doing so.  This situation gives him the perfect "I had to do it--what would you have had me do instead?" political cover he could offer privately to po'd Democrats in order to pull that off.  


    Perhaps because he built his 2010 campaign on the promise that he would be the responsible president to bridge the partisan squabbling. Or more to the point, perhaps because he plans to reprise the same role in his 2014 campaign.

    Everyone has a role to play in the big show.

    Perhaps because he built his 2010 campaign on the promise that he would be the responsible president to bridge the partisan squabbling.

    How's that 2008 hope working out for him?  And if he promises it again in 2012, who will believe him?

    I didn't say hope. I said "bridge the partisan squabbling." He clearly still thinks that he needs to be that guy or at least be seen as that guy (which is one of the things that I think you don't like about him). That's why he always makes a big show of offering to work with the Republicans.

    Whether or not that strategy will prove effective in the 2012 campaign remains to be seen, but it's obviously targeted at independents and moderates, not the left.

    Can't remember where I read it/heard it, but it was written/said somewhere that it has been the President's policy not to play games with congress, but to submit things in a form he thinks can have bi-partisan support, thereby not wasting time with the "business-as-usual" b.s. back and forth stuff. But with this congress that not been successful. I don't know if he will continue to try (because it seems like the grown-up thing to do, and SHOULD work that way) or if he will go back to the more traditional way of operating (asking for the sun and moon knowing you'll be lucky to get a mere sliver of the moon.)

    I believe the President really believes his way is the way things should be done, so he will continue to try. Problem is, he has a congress that doesn't negotiate, and is willing to blow the country up to sink him (hoping, I guess, that they can put it back together in a form more suitable to them once they regain control.) I really don't know how you counter that, particularly when you have a media that is owned by corporations more interested in profits than what is best for the country. We are in a very scary time in our country's history.

    I knew Obama lost the war,  when he gave his acceptance speech.

    We who fought hard, against the MSM  and against all challengers and odds to elect the first Blackman as President, but we prevailed in the skirmish, we routed the enemies of Social programs and we knew the war was  not over;....., except the war was over in Obamas mind;  he was looking for reconstruction, Bi partianship,  yet the enemy was not done fighting.

    The Republicans hadn't surrendered, Obama did..

    Obama says "Can we get good terms, if we surrender"

     I thought we were electing the man, to get in the faces of those opposed to our Social ideals

    We weren't looking for Mr Rodgers  "Can you say compomise, can you say surrender"

    "Hope" and "change" mean different things to different people... I thought that he would be able to unite the country, bring together both sides to work for the good of the country. No one was more surprised than I was that the repubs would band together and deliberately do everything in their power to thwart his efforts. He made mistakes, he discovered he couldn't do everything he thought he could do, and even HE had to be surprised at the united, concerted effort to tank him. He's done some things that have left me shaking my head, But I haven't given up on him, have never once considered him to be evil or cowardly or any of the other things many of you think about him.

    His insistence on being civil and working together are two of the things I expected of him. His refusal to get down in the mud during the elections should have been a clue as to how he would govern. He is not a get down in the mud kinda guy.

    Much of the disappointment has come from him being who he has always been. I don't know why it has been such a shock.

    Exactly and very, very well put

    I will not claim to have seen the level of opposition:  The blogosphere has recorded some of my optimism that the lessons of the eight years of politics against reason had been learned.  I was wrong.

    On the other hand, when our side was already in panic over some of the President-elect's appointments in the winter of 2008, after the election and before the inauguration, a thought that might calm these demands of royalty or deism on our new president, seems worth repeating today:


    The President-elect's promises are to propose the middle class tax cuts and to urge the many things he discussed during the campaign, and the platform he will ascend to on January 20, will certainly give him a leading role in achieving those ends, but, my fellow Americans, do not fall into the trap of thinking that whatever he says will become law. And if everything he thinks should happen, does not, it does not mean he "broke his promise." It means he is not as good at convincing members of Congress that he is right, as we had hoped or he had thought.

    That's how it works. I suspect he would like to do something now to help the auto industry and the current administration now sounds as if they want to do something, too. Yesterday's Times suggests that there is substantial opposition to this proposal, though, so notwithstanding the support of presidents present and future (I think the current president's support is a bit tepid), it may not happen since presidents----repeat after me---neither "rule" nor "govern."



    Would it be a fair criticism to say that he misjudged the situation, badly, in vastly under-estimating how much partisan opposition he would encounter?  Is it unreasonable for those who voted for him to want and expect him to adapt to the situation as he finds it, rather than the situation he expected and hoped to encounter?  Isn't it a part of maturity not just to refrain from mindless, angry and ineffective if not self-destructive lashing out as an MO, but also to recognize a situation for the reality of it and work to adapt?

    I don't think that entails changing entirely who he is, which in any case rarely happens.  If I sound sometimes and lately as though I want him to confront Republicans constantly, as an MO, not so.

    First, I think as President one always has to listen, to be not only open to but seek out signs of potential agreement and cooperation, even if on a limited basis, from his political opposition.  I thought his meeting with GOP members of Congress back in, what was it?--maybe early 2010--was a great idea, especially having it televised.  Because it advertised how reasonable, how open, how receptive Obama is while also showing him rejecting a lot of what was being said as unreasonable , uninformed, or unworkable.  I don't think it's an accident the GOP has declined to do anything like that since then.  They looked really, really bad. And they knew it.  

    Second, while it may be ok or even effective for a President to show anger on occasion, that can't be the regular or primary stance.  The public will read it that he's frustrated, he's lost his cool, he doesn't know how to manage the situation he faces.  And they'll feel uncomfortable with that because they observe their President's discomfort.

    But a President does not need to confront his opposition in an angry way.  Bill Clinton, again, figured out how to do just this when the Gingrich Congress was jerking him around, playing hardball with him on the budget.  He trounced them.  

    Now in a world where one of the major political parties does not have an emotional center of gravity comparable in mental outlook to that of an 8 year old boy, things might have gone better than they did for the rest of his time in office.  And it's also true that if Clinton had been disciplined in his own personal behavior, he would not have been vulnerable to government-by-impeachment.  But the situation was what it was.  

    The part where he faced them down, calmly, never losing his temper, over the budget showdown, and trounced them--Obama could learn a lot frrom that.  What it required with Clinton, and what it will require if Obama is able to master situations which require him to confront his adversaries, was a sure sense of which arguments ("balance the budget while preserving our values") and which behaviors (giving Gingrich an opportunity which Gingrich seized to sulk on Air Force One, with media all over the place, over where he was seated, and claim unambiguously the vain, petty ground for himself) will clearly prevail in the court of public opinion, and use a sure sense of public opinion to win when the GOP goes too far.

    I'm not remotely holding my breath that Obama will develop, grow, rise to the actual challenges he faces rather than the ones he wanted to face and thought he'd be facing, in these ways.  But neither can I, or do, rule out any possibility he will do that. In any case isn't waiting and hoping that will happen mainly a distraction from what someone in my position, and the position of most of us here I surmise, could more productively be doing?  

    It's an unfathomably hard job he has, after all.  Learning and improvement can, and sometimes does, take place.  Even 2 1/2 years into it. Bridge building will always be his preferred MO and in any case may need to be the predominant stance of any President.  But he badly needs to supplement his game by learning how and when he can confront and win, without coming off as just frustrated to the point of impotent anger.

    None of us ordinary folks gets to deal with the world we want.  We must deal with the world the way it is.  It's not unreasonable, unfair, or hyper-critical to hope and expect our President to do likewise.  Although we, too, must deal with the reality of our quite human President the way it is, not the way we might want it to be or thought it would be.

    You may be right, Dreamer, but consider this, as well. When you are setting out to CHANGE the way things are done, and I mean seriously change them, do you go back to the way they were done before when you meet opposition to doing it the new way? Or do you repeat the behavior over and over until the opposition finally believes this is the way it's going to be? By falling back on the old behavior, aren't you, in essence, admitting defeat, and confirming that the old, nasty way of doing things is the way it will forever be?

    As a mother, I know that when things got out of control and I was going to effect change, it didn't happen overnight. It took repeated demonstrations of the way it was going to be for my kids to believe I was serious about the change. Now, theoretically, the repubs are not children (although you'd never know it by their behavior) and the President does not have the ability to, by himslef, unilaterally decree that change WILL happen, the way a mother can. But can't some kind of a parallel be drawn?

    The deck has been stacked somehow, and I'm not exctly sure how it happened. It feels like it happened very quickly, although it may have been a gradual thing (the boiling frog theory.) We find ourselves in a position I don't recall having been in before, where the minority party has been able take over (which is whole different kettle of fish, perhaps best saved for another discussion.)

    There is sooooooo much wrong with this country at the moment, that all the bandaids we're slapping on aren't doing the trick. It needs to have a fundamental change in the way it is operated, or it is going to bleed to death. But the repubs are not only not helping to stem the bleeding, they are inflicting new wounds every chance they get. They are a cancer who kills the host, rather than a parasite that merely uses the host, but allows it to live.

    I don't know if the President has the ability to effect the change. But I do know it will take more than 4 years to do it, and most likely more than 8. I'm still willing to give him time to try it his way. 


    It's the electorates fault, we elected a boy, to do a mans job.

    I didn’t think we were going to have to wait for him to grow.

    We were told he was wise beyond his years.

    All you had to do was listen to him, listen to him tell, the workers in Ohio and Pennsylvania,  he understood NAFTA type trade agreements, was hurting American Jobs

    If it hasn’t dawned on the peasant class yet, WE ARE IN A CLASS WAR STRUGGLE. 

    FDR knew his opponents enemies he didn’t hope his opponents would come to reason with him, or that the opposition having lost the Presidency, would now lay down their arms, ready to embrace FDR socialism.

    The opposition wasn’t about to let the Socialist Obama, turning back the gains made during Reagan and Bush. 

    Obamas talk of Bi partisanship emboldened the opposition, The Socialist leader was perceived as weak.

    The opposition recognized “Go for the jugular, he doesn’t know how to use his army, we can pretend to sit across the table, in making a fine gestures,, keeping him preoccupied with his fantasy of “cant we all just get along”

    Some fairy tale Obama keeps repeating “the people sent us here, to work together”

    Where he got that idea? The opposition never saw that as the goal. The only goal the opposition saw was how to diminish the losses incurred from losing the Presidency. Looking for the opportunity to regain the POWER, this fool doesn’t know how to wield.  

    While Obama sits on the other side of the Potomac, HOPING the battle is now over. Hell the war continues, Fool     

    Why should the opposition sit across the table from Obama, As though they’ve all come to see the light from Obama the messiah? The lamb shouldn't be looking to lie down with the lion yet.

    The man is delusional. Obamas hope for bipartisanship was not reality based.

    We didn’t need an angry looking President; we needed a President hell bent, on taking it to the opposing side. We needed a Sherman like General, WANTING to destroy the opposition’s lines of support. No remorse in trying to return the Nation back from the evil course, of trickle down slavery.

    The Nation wanted some butt kicking, not butt kissing       



    And need we remind folks that this was a massive piece of his appeal since his 2004 convention speech? He has to figure out a way to be partisan-tough whilst appearing to be bi-partisan. Now THAT is a challenge.

    Probably needs to use surrogates more effectively--good cop/bad cop.

    Who says that he sees what to you and me is an undesirable or worse concession as likewise?

    If he makes some cuts on social insurance he'll get a lot of favorable MSM press for that--bank on that.  He may well think he gains more support among moderates or independents or both than he stands to lose among "nowhere else to go" Democrats he believes he largely has in his back pocket, both for making relatively modest cuts to social insurance he thinks he can justify and for being less scary and more responsible than Congress when it comes to protecting the dollar.

    People like you and me might say he should not negotiate with terrorist Republican politicians and should instead crush them.  Whereas he may see this as a win-win opportunity. This is latitude he gives himself by keeping his desires and intentions opaque.  All quite deliberate on his part, I strongly suspect.  And not at all necessarily a bad re-election approach for him.    

    He may also feel that he CAN'T crush them. I'm not sure this is true, but...

    Yes, and on Morning Joe today they were talking about just this subject. "Kabuki theater" and the lack of seriousness on both sides. John Heilmann got a little carried away with blaming the Republicans, and of course Joe had to come to the Repub's defense by pretending the argument is about taxing Corporate jets and fancy lifestyles and not making the rich pay their fair share. It ended with all agreeing something has to be done about Social Security and Medicare, which the Dems say is off the table. Joe said, and I quote, "That is every bit as irresponsible as saying you're not going to raise taxes". As if the solution to all our problems is in cutting benefits to those who still -- and even more now -- need them the most. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036789/ns/msnbc_tv-morning_joe/#43605703

    It's not just kabuki, and for a reason you don't mention:  The middlemen/hedge funds/etc. are making beaucoup bucks in the interim, and the longer the show goes on more investors will try to protect themselves by hedging, while others simply place long or short bets on the dollar/US bonds.  So, the charade serves their masters in the build-up as well as in the deneoument.

    Somebody always makes money.

    But believe it or not, rich people lose money too. And if the dollar crashes, a lot of rich people will lose an awful lot of money.

    Hit the reset button?

    So who really gives a darn if America defaults?

    American exceptionalism is over.

    Who'll suffer and who'll gain? 

    Will the richest man in America be hurt?  Will the richest guy in Mexico be hurt? Will the richest guy in Britain be hurt?

    Who do you suppose will be the ruler of the world, when the dust settles and we go back to default mode ?

    Within the last couple of months, the Congressional Budget Office released a report of their calculations of what would happen if the budget remanined the same and the laws weren't changed, what would happen?


    The number said that after the tax cuts for the rich were automatically sunsetted out of existence, the budget would be back in balance within the next ten years.  That was with no other revenues increasing, no cuts from the budget.


    Surprised me that it got as little reaction as it did, even on the liberal blogs that I check. Basically, this manufactured hysteria by the richest 400's propaganda machines is all crap. Doing nothing benefits everyone but the rich. 


    Go on strike, congress.  Senators, take off for six months in the Carribbean visiting your bribes. President Obama go visit Hawaii for a couple of months.

    I buy a lot of what you are saying, but what one set of actors has done is made their own chorus into rabid dogs:  they believe what is being said, even if what is beign said is not serious.  So there are now all sorts of high strung people convinced that since "Congress spends too much money" they are unemployed or having their own financial difficulties.  It makes no sense, but that is not the point.

    These rabid dogs will not be settled down because their masters have changed course and recognized the need for the country not to go into default.  Their howls, amplified by those who want to amplify them, will be loud, louder and loudest. 

    They have already convinced the smirking wise asses of the beltway press (the ones who were certain that Iraq was about to attack with WMD) that the cause of our financial problems are "entitlements" and the "budget deficit" when the causes were, in fact, the deregulation the same wise asses trumpeted as what "eveyone knows" when President Clinton took office in 1993.

    Turning this daily trumpeted message of greedy poor people wanting food and health care ruining our economy thanks to the public sector untions, into the reasoned settlement of a always previously technical and non controversial "issue" will be very difficult.

    Most importantly, they've convinced a lot of ordinary Americans across the political spectrum.

    I totally agree. I think most political and market processes are dumb show in order to manipulate the public into agreeing to the maintenance of the status quo of the elite. We have to keep counteracting with truth.

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