Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Something Ezra Klein got right

Last week Ezra Klein got it completely wrong on a potential deal to end the so-called "fiscal cliff." True to form, its still producing ridiculous whines from the poutragers on the left.

But yesterday Klein got something absolutely right.
When you drill down to the granular policy level, Republicans aren’t sure what Republicans want. Democrats complain that the Republican offers are bare of policy detail. They lay down targets — say, $600 billion in health savings — but say nothing about how those targets will be achieved...

The administration is a bit agog at this approach: If you don’t know how you’re going to hit your target, how can you possibly know whether your target is reasonable? It’s like buying a house with the expectation that you’ll figure out how to pay for it later.

This is important context for the role the Medicare eligibility age is playing in these discussions. Though it’s emerged, alongside chained-CPI, as the GOP’s top ask in the negotiations, it’s disconnected from any larger theory about how to slow the rise in health-care costs. There’s no particular conservative — or even non-conservative — policy goal that raising the Medicare eligibility age advances.
The reason the administration is "a bit agog at this approach" is that there is not an ounce of pragmatism in what the Republicans are doing - its all partisan nonsense. For example, everyone who's actually run the numbers on lowering the age of Medicare eligibility knows that it does almost nothing to reduce spending.  What's happening here is that the Republicans are reaching for something - anything - that will give them a "win" in this battle with the White House.

We've seen the President exploit that tendency of Republicans over and over again. The perfect example was the deal he negotiated with them on the 2011 budget when they were threatening a government shut-down.
Republicans and President Obama have been hailing last week’s shutdown-averting government funding deal as the “largest spending cut in history,” but as details about the package emerged, analysts realized that deal’s supporters were greatly overselling the purported $38.5 billion in cuts. And today, the Congressional Budget Office finds that the deal would shave just $352 million from the deficit in the next six months — “less than 1 percent of the $38 billion in claimed savings,” the AP reports.
What the Republicans did that time was the same thing they're doing now - lay down a target, but have no idea about how to get there. That gave the President the opportunity to fill in the details with spending cuts that they could claim as a victory - but didn't really have much of an impact.

The way I see it - the Republicans are too lazy and ideological to do the hard stuff...working through the details. That gives our pragmatic President the edge - every time. I expect that once again he'll exploit that advantage.


  1. While I won't assume Republican math knowledge is any greater than it seems, I think the real reason we don't see specificity in Republican plans is that they don't want the public to know what their very clear plans are.

    And when they get the power to enact those clear plans, then it's time again for the 'belt tightening' and 'sacrifice' speeches. That and lots of blame for Democrats who "forced" them into it.

  2. "What the Republicans did that time was the same thing they're doing now - lay down a target, but have no idea about how to get there."

    It reminds me of the 'policy' proposals of - y'know, whatsisname. Bloke who ran for President a while back. Nice hair. Teeth. Binder cadillac guy.

    Anyway, his policy proposals consisted of targets with no description of how they would be met, too. Perhaps it's endemic.

  3. They have reached a point where they can't possibly tell the vast majority of their base what they intend to do.

    This makes it necessary to start attacking the democratic system at its core: the ability to learn the facts, and the ability to vote.

  4. The Republicans want Medicare and Social Security slashed. But they don't want to be the ones to do it because they know how politically unpopular it is. Just look at how they accuse Obama of cutting Medicare during the presidential campaign and you can see the shape of what they want: They'll set the goals, but they want Obama to actually make the cuts (and take the blame).

    Obama, so far, is refusing to play that game and the frustration on the GOP side is growing.

  5. I'm just beginning to see the cleverness behind Boehner saying he got 98% of what he wanted in the Debt Ceiling deal even though he didn't get any of what he wanted. It was a giant con job to keep his leadership role intact. The Republicans aren't very good with numbers or strategy when it comes to negotiation, so whatever he got, he was going to say it was a win because the Republicans are too ignorant to know any better. I'm wondering if he can do that again? The need to save face is so great that he's going to sell whatever he gets so hard that it just might work. Again.


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