In this biz (if playing digital chin music can be called a biz), you don’t want to get too hung up interpreting one moment in time. These things change quickly. But in the heat of budget deals, debt ceiling, proposed Medicare changes, the NY special election, the nascent economic recovery, a few themes seem worth observing.
–The R’s have overreached. By getting behind a budget plan that seriously whacks the poor and the elderly, ends the guaranteed health security of Medicare, and spends much of those “savings” on tax cuts for wealthy people, they’ve simply gone too far for most people’s sense of fairness. I’m not talking about the left here. I’m talking about the independent, median voter who tends to decide elections in this country.
–It’s all about balance. Raising the debt ceiling is an obscure concept to most people, an unattractive task for any politician, and a clear imperative for our economy (actually, when you think about the far-flung holders of our sovereign debt, for the global economy). While a clean bill to raise the ceiling would be the best way to go about this, it ain’t gonna happen. The price of admission to raise the debt ceiling is negotiating a path to fiscal sustainability.
So, the question is, how do we set out that path most quickly and effectively? And the answer is: a balanced plan that a) doesn’t whack away at the current economy, still trying to get off the ground, b) includes both revenue raisers and spending cuts, and c) doesn’t undermine the Federal government’s ability to continue providing retirement and economic security to the vulnerable. I’d also add you don’t want to exacerbate two major economic challenges we face: poverty and income inequality.
How likely is it that such a plan emerges? See the above re overreaching. To insist on the measures in the R’s plan is to insist on imbalance, and that’s not only bad policy…it’s bad politics. At this point, it’s really not clear to me who, including the Tea Party, wants to see measures like those in the Ryan budget.
I know—that’s all very rational and sensible. So why did 42 out of 47 Senate R’s vote for this plan yesterday? Is it a loyalty test, as the WaPo suggested this AM?
Again, the daily papers give you a snapshot of a landscape that can change quickly, but it’s not at all hard to imagine the R’s digging in deeper, defending a bad plan that deservedly unpopular, even at great political expense. I’m not sure why that happens in this town—some kind of self-destructive group think. But it happens. So stay tuned.
Update: Ezra speaks to the “why” posed above re the Senate R’s support, suggesting that the base loves the Ryan budget. If that’s so (any polling on this?), greater familiarity might breed more contempt.