Kevin Drum - December 2010

Time for Some Logrolling

| Wed Dec. 1, 2010 11:40 AM EST

The Republican caucus in the Senate has written unanimously to Harry Reid to tell him that they will block action on everything — everything, dammit! — until the Bush tax cuts are extended.  "While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate's attention," the letter says, "we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike."

I confess that I'm unclear on why this situation isn't ripe for a bit of old-fashioned logrolling. Republicans want extension of tax breaks for both the middle class and millionaires. Democrats don't, but they do want passage of DADT repeal and New START.1 So strike an agreement with the GOP leadership to extend the tax cuts for three years in return for support on the other two things. The alternative is gridlock since Dems have never had the votes to extend just the middle-class tax cuts anyway.

What am I missing here? Why would this be such an unthinkable compromise?

1Or maybe some other stuff. Pick your poison. And obviously some smaller items like 1099 repeal and unemployment extensions might end up in the package too. It all depends on how things go. But conceptually, there doesn't seem to be any big impediment to a deal of some kind.

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Willful Self Destruction

| Wed Dec. 1, 2010 2:18 AM EST

Tom Friedman imagines what a leaked cable from the Chinese embassy in Washington DC might look like:

There is a willful self-destructiveness in the air here as if America has all the time and money in the world for petty politics. They fight over things like — we are not making this up — how and where an airport security officer can touch them. They are fighting — we are happy to report — over the latest nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia....And since anything that brings Russia and America closer could end up isolating us, we are grateful to Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona for putting our interests ahead of America’s and blocking Senate ratification of the treaty.

Etc. etc.

I have to admit this evokes a lot of my current mood too. Back at the beginning of the month we spent a week going into a frenzy over recommendations from a deficit reduction commission that everyone knew were DOA. Then it was a week of TSA frenzy. And now it's WikiLeaks frenzy. All while our economy slips into a Japan-style stagnation and nobody seems to care. It staggers the imagination. The strongest country in the world — my country — is allowing its economy to decay before our collective eyes even though we know how to stop it. But we're not going to. We're just going to let it happen. As Friedman says, it's willful self destruction.

We need: a big stimulus now aimed at infrastructure development. A credible plan to close the long-term deficit that acknowledges the need for tax increases to be part of the solution. A serious and sustained effort at reining in healthcare costs and broadening access. A collective decision to cut out the culture war nonsense and figure out how to improve our educational system with no more than modest spending increases. Real financial reform, not the weak tea of Dodd-Frank. Less spending on empire building and much, much more spending on real sustainable energy development and engineering.

But we're not going to do this stuff. As near as I can tell, we're not even going to do one single thing on this list. We're not even going to try. In fact, they're all so far from being realistically achievable that it's sort of foolish to even waste breath writing about them. So instead we spend our time reacting to Sarah Palin's latest tweet and demanding that the CIA assassinate Julian Assange. Gotta talk about something, after all, whether the ship is going down or not. Glug, glug.

POSTSCRIPT: Maybe I'll be in a sunnier mood tomorrow morning. Maybe.