Conservative Blather Should Not Be Taken Too Seriously

Andrew Sprung kind of likes the idea that conservatives are so unnerved by Obama’s success in the fiscal cliff negotiations:

To his enemies, he now bestrides Capitol Hill like a colossus while the GOP leadership walks under his huge legs and peeps about to find themselves dishonorable graves. I don’t think they’re right. But I find it refreshing. Bracing. You might almost say exhilarating. Start with Charles Krauthammer….

What follows is a typically hysterical reaction from Krauthammer toward the prospect of millionaires seeing their effective tax rates go up by a few percentage points. But for what it’s worth, I wouldn’t take this too seriously. Does this mean that Krauthammer really thinks Obama has won a world historical victory? I doubt it. He’s simply doing what pundits and politicians always do: portraying events in a way most likely to rally the troops for the next battle. Krauthammer wants to scare conservatives into holding firm in the next round of negotiations, and the best way to do that is by pretending that Round 1 was a loss of brobdingnagian proportions. One more like that and liberals will have routed us completely!

This is just blather. In broad terms, the fiscal cliff deal was peanuts. The sequestration negotiations will probably turn into peanuts too. The plain fact is that although both sides talk a good game, Democrats are afraid to raise taxes very much and Republicans are afraid to cut entitlements very much. That’s why Dems won’t even consider things like carbon taxes or financial transaction taxes, and why Republicans generally refuse to offer concrete entitlement cuts. Even Paul Ryan’s famous budget punts on Social Security completely, doesn’t touch Medicare in the medium term, and does its level best to painstakingly obscure the fact that it would cut Medicare in the long term.

The next few years are going to be trench warfare. No one is likely to win or lose in any big way.