Sunday, April 10, 2011

Shutdown avoided

Both parties have agreed to fund the gov't for this year. Apparently Republicans agreed to drop the controversial 'riders' attached to the funding bill and Democrats agreed to cut more funding than they initially said they wanted.

So while both sides conceded things, which is how negotiations have to end, it seems like Republicans got more of what they wanted than Democrats did. And certainly conservatives got more of what they wanted than liberals did. Though I'm sure conservatives think it still wasn't enough. After all, many conservatives don't think the federal gov't should do anything at all. So they would have been happy with a shutdown.

I say conservatives won because they believe that the deficit is the biggest problem we have right now. And a lot of why they believe that is they use the size of the deficit as sort of a measure of how big gov't is. If there is a big deficit, as there is now, that means the gov't is too big. Of course, when there was a surplus they also argued that gov't was too big and used it as justification for their tax cuts and reckless Fed policies. But that's another story.

Liberals on the other hand believe (or at least should) that while the deficit is a problem that needs to be addressed in the future, the high unemployment rate is a much bigger problem at the moment. And the gov't can do a lot to help bring unemployment down and get the economy back on a better track. Much of that would involve spending money and running up deficits. This is pretty standard economic theory as far as I can tell. But if it isn't for some reason I'm not aware of that doesn't mean Republicans have had a problem adhering to some economic theory that holds that gov't shouldn't run a deficit because they have done so since Reagan.

What I'd really like to know is if Republicans, or even just Boehner, ever seriously thought they would get to defund Planned Parenthood, NPR, and part of the EPA. I'm sure on some level the tea party types in the House and Senate really wanted it and thought they might get it. But Boehner is a very savvy politician. He knows those things are difficult at best to sell to a Democratic Senate and White House. Regardless of how likely they thought those things would be to pass, the fact that they put them in there and stuck by them seemed to be a smart negotiating strategy.

They could act like they were things they really wanted and a deal wouldn't be reached without them. Dems would then know that if they didn't address those things they would be risking a shutdown, which is something they really wanted to avoid. Reps also know that Dems already agree to most of the spending cuts that Reps want. So all they have to do is say, "Well ok, we will drop these riders that we know you hate if you go up just a bit more on total spending cuts." Then if Dems don't agree you can go to the media and tell the public that they tried to compromise and take the riders out but Dems just want to spend the people's money and make the country go broke.

I know there is polling showing that most liberals and independents want Democrats to compromise. But I don't think that means Democrats can't adopt some of the negotiating strategies that Republicans use.

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