In other words, why we can expect governing by brinksmanship to continue:
My biggest worry moving forward over the next couple weeks is how the shutdown battle gets framed in the media–right now, the typical framing seems to portray the shutdown as a showdown between the Democrats favoring a status quo policy position and GOP demands for the preferred policy position of the hour–Obamacare delay; grand bargain, whatever it happens to be. However, framing it as a binary choice, as such, inevitably makes it seem as if the status quo is the Democratic Party’s policy preference; naturally, as we approach the debt ceiling, this will create enormous pressure on so-called ‘moderates’ (including pretty much all of the professional punditry) to call for compromise by supporting a position halfway in-between the status quo and the Republican demands (whatever those end up being). So, whether this ends up in calls for a partial delay of the Affordable Care Act; further calls to cut government spending; entitlement reform–whatever the GOP ends up demanding for raising the debt ceiling, you can be sure there will be a large number of people calling for the Democrats to ‘compromise.’
However, this misses an important part of the story over the last several years: how much the status quo already represents Democratic compromises. Remember sequestration? The Senate attempted to repeal sequestration in March and replace it with a more balanced mix of spending cuts and tax increases; however, at this point, the Democrats are basically begging the GOP to pass a ‘clean’ continuing resolution at sequestration spending levels. Non-defense discretionary spending is being cut at a faster pace than Paul Ryan’s 2011 budget laid out. Here’s a fantastic visual, from Dylan Matthews:
I mean; it is ridiculous the extent to which the status quo represents GOP preferences on fiscal policy. The GOP can’t even pass appropriations bills in the house because the spending cuts specified in Ryan’s budget are too severe (when not in the abstract), and yet somehow the Democrats are completely willing to fund the government at basically the Paul Ryan specified levels, and that is still not enough to get the GOP to agree on a spending bill. [For those not willing to do the math, in dollar figures, the Senate CR cuts 92% of the gap between Paul Ryan’s budget and Obama’s original budget.]
So, to go back to my original point, presenting the status quo policy as a Democratic position obscures the extent to which 1) the GOP has been effective in driving their policy priorities over the last 4 years and 2) the Democrats have given away the farm on fiscal policy.
All of this, by the way, coming in a time when the central bank can’t offset fiscal contraction and consumers are recovering from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. And we wonder why the recovery has been so anemic…