So…Um…What’s Different Now?

November 7th, 2012 at 8:57 pm

OK, you can be forgiven for waking up today wondering: did we really go through all of that just to be stuck exactly where we were?

I’ve already been on TV this AM with some who were arguing that there’s no reason for yesterday’s gridlock to suddenly evaporate.  And you’ve got the predictable obstructionists making the predictable noise:

“If he [Obama] wins, he wins — but at the same time, voters will clearly vote for a Republican House,” said Representative Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican who shouted “You lie!” at Mr. Obama during a speech to Congress. “The consequence of that is our voters really anticipate and count on us holding firm.”

Well, I know I’m running on no sleep and too much caffeine, but I disagree.  Here’s a sketch of the reasoning that says some important differences were established by dint of last night’s clear, though narrow re the popular vote, victory:

New presidents, including newly reelected ones, get some props.  What seemed impossible before an election can become doable after one.  Outside of die-hards like the guy quoted above, and he’s of course not alone, I know that there are Republicans who are ready to deal on, e.g., the fiscal cliff.  More on that in a moment.

Losers last night included supply-side economics and the Tea Party.  Yes, some tea partiers won, but not only were their positions rejected by their candidate in the general election, but R’s lost a bunch of races they could have won because of positions that stick in the primary and stink in the general.

And Romney/Ryan’s big centerpiece supply-side, trickle down tax cut didn’t seem to do anything for them.  Meanwhile, the President was forthright about rates having to go up on upper-income households in order to move towards a sustainable budget path…and he won.

The Affordable Care Act will not face repeal on day one.  Implementing this as well as financial reform will be critical second term agenda items.

There is a will be a role for government in safety nets, market failure, social insurance, financial oversight.  Though moderate Mitt muddied the waters towards the end, WITT beat YOYO—and that is a very good thing.

Look, I’m not going to be listening for a chorus of Kumbaya to break out on Capitol Hill.  But I believe a victorious Obama with an increased Senate majority should be able to get a compromise on the expiration of the top 2% of the Bush tax cuts, while extending the other 98%.  Once you get that, a lot of other cliff issues fall into place—e.g., I’m sure they can smooth out the automatic spending cuts to hit more gradually.  Maybe–hopefully–there are some jobs measures in there too.

It make take going over the cliff to get there, and R’s will demand more spending cuts for it—they’ll probably gun for the entitlements.  So there will be more argumentation, for sure.

But again, it could be sleep deprivation, but I think we’re a little bit closer to compromise and functionality today than we were a couple of days ago.  And if I’m right, well then, that wasn’t all for nothing, was it?

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15 comments in reply to "So…Um…What’s Different Now?"

  1. JohnR says:

    Oh, that was definitely critical. Even so (and I am a notoriously cranky pessimist, fwiw), what I see is a bunch of rabidly furious, and even more viciously demented, people who are not just humiliated but mortified as well, going to any lengths to punish the country because it rejected them. We’ll see how this plays out, but I guess I should next ask the obvious question: “What does Nate Silver think?”

  2. mitakeet says:

    My take, for what it is worth, is that a lot of the more moderate GOP members that have had guns to their heads with threats from the right wing extremes will see this as a justification to be much more likely to reach out to an extended hand from the President. Since Obama has shown a huge willingness to extend his hand (to his detriment, in my view), I expect that he will be able to build enough of a coalition to get some action that has been held in total abeyance the last several years. The GOP can’t afford 4 more years of nothing but obstructionism so I expect that they will find some common ground.

    Besides, despite the GOP’s best efforts, the economy is recovering and that recovery is almost certainly going to provide support for the Dems. If the GOP can’t get their fingerprints on the recovery somehow I predict they will lose the house and might even lose the ability to filibuster in the Senate.

  3. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    If it takes going over the cliff, so be it.
    Completely agree that supply-side economics took a drubbing.
    That alone was worth all the overly priced hullaballoo.

  4. Brenda says:

    Democrats say they are going to try for filibuster reform. We’ll see.

    I’m very happy. Obama’s acceptance speech was the greatest political speech I have ever heard.

  5. Riyaz Guerra says:

    Jared, do you still feel as confident about ‘their willingness to compromise’ after Boehner’s statement this afternoon?

    Because it sure looks to me like they are digging in on the raising taxes issue.

    Boehner’s attempt to characterize “generating revenues” as something that could be wholly achieved through expanded economic activity and tax reform exposes their position. They will not budge on raising taxes on the rich.

    • Jared Bernstein says:

      Well, leopards don’t change their spots but his statement actually showed a pinprick of light, I thought. Note that he’s saying new revenues, which I take to mean something beyond revenue neturality. I’m always suspicious about the “lower rates, broader base” formulation, because you can end up with a lot of the former and too little of the latter. But you gotta start somewhere.

      • Riyaz Guerra says:

        Thank you for the reply.

        Call me a pessimist, I just feel the only thing that will move Republicans on this issue is the public spectacle of protests in front of the House of Representatives.

  6. Rima Regas says:

    Any other president would have his mandate without question. But, as we learned last term, this isn’t any president. So…

    I think McConnell will reign Boehner in, if Boehner even needs reigning in. I think the House and Senate leadership will attempt to have complete parliamentary control over their delegates. If I were in Nancy Pelosi’s shoes, if this is indeed where the GOP heads are at, I would do my best to poach as many of the GOP members from the more moderate districts as I can and see where that gets me.

    This will either get very ugly or it won’t. I am not impressed by McConnell or Boehner’s ability to do the smart thing.

    It may well be that we’re going to have to tough it out these next two years while working to get a turn over in the House in 2014. I hope not, but…

  7. Bill Gatliff says:


    Please stop saying that we need to “raise taxes on the rich”.

    What we actually need to do is roll back the unsustainable, unfair, and unaffordable tax cuts that the rich have given themselves over the few business cycles.

    Yes, it’s semantics. But when you say “raise taxes on the rich”, it places the debate into a context where the taxes the rich are currently paying are somehow appropriate, but now we must increase them. That’s factually incorrect framing of the situation.

    The truth is, the rich haven’t been paying their way for a long time. We aren’t levying new taxes, we are collecting taxes that need to be paid but haven’t been.

    Disclosure: I will probably pay more taxes under Obama. But I can live with that, because (a) I pay taxes on income, which I greatly prefer to NOT having an income, and (b) the deficit is for services ALREADY RENDERED. What services I want my government to provide in the future is a separate discussion (though I generally agree with Obama’s policy proposals).

    It’s a bit like buying furniture on the three-years-no-interest credit plan, and then not paying any attention to the bill for 35 months. When it finally comes due, you can’t expect pity for the “sacrifice” that comes with finally paying it. Expecting otherwise is the problem, not the bill itself.

  8. Russ Abbott says:

    Here’s what I would do. Offer Romney the job of Treasury Secretary

    Obama has the personality to offer him the job. Romney could break the impasse if he accepts. If he is serious about “getting this economy moving again,” he must realize (a) that now that money is so cheap this is the time to borrow and (b) that we desperately need to rebuild our infrastructure. It’s really a no-brainer for any serious businessman.

    Romney is smart enough to understand that. If he works as Obama’s Treasury Secretary he may be able to pull enough Republicans along with him to get an infrastructure bill passed. It would make a terrific legacy for him. The question is whether he has sufficient character to do it.

    • Bill Gatliff says:

      Under the Bain Capital business model, Romney would want a pretty hefty “management fee” first, paid for by more government borrowing.

      Come to think of it, that sounds like the whole Republican agenda in a nutshell. Loses bid for Presidency, gets the spoils anyway. Wow. 🙂

  9. Hobart says:

    Like many of my Democratic friends (I am also a Democrat), you fail to see your own extremism. There is a serious economic crisis occurring in this country. Helping the economy should be the first priority of the government right now. If the USA drifts into negative GDP growth it will be because the president and the democrats in the senate are drawing a line in the sand on the taxation of the richest Americans. Just extend status quo for a year and work out a completely new deal in the course of next year. So let me ask you, are you willing to sacrifice the economic recovery in order to stick a bill to a handful of fat cats that you dislike? If so, then you’re an extremist and making the same poor choices that the German people did in demonizing the Jewish people – who were widely viewed to be more successful, but not deserving. Starting to see the similarities? Get off the “Tax the Rich!” pulpit and we can all start to work together to fix the tax code and the economy.
    Best regards,
    While the healthcare bill was ethically warranted and will indeed create jobs, if what the president wanted to do was boost the economy he could have spent more political capital passing legislation to spend a trillion dollars on infrastructure. It’s too late for that kind of stimulus now, as it takes years to fully realize the benefits of new projects, but now the president and the democrats in the senate have a responsibility not to allow the USA to drift into negative GDP growth because they would v

  10. Fred Donaldson says:

    Watched you on C-Span 3 this morning (Nov. 8) in a discussion with Charles Murray, who wrote “The Bell Curve” (expounding heredity, which is a factor, along with environment in our success as individuals). You were in excellent form, while discussing “Coming Apart”, but I think both of you missed economic facts that should impact social programs and improve the real plight of the poor.

    Oddly, I grew up (20 years) in the Fishtown (Philadelphia) that Murray uses as a model for the poor white class, and my son, an engineer, lives in Belmont, MA, which is the other extreme Murray used.

    Why don’t so many poor white folks get married in Kensington (Fishtown) or hundreds of other U.S. neighborhoods?

    Most of us low class whites from Fishtown wanted a nice wedding and as men, this also meant the ability (job and money) to support our future wife and children. With today’s minimum wage jobs for high school grads and no guarantee of work, we low class guys would be criminals to drag a woman into such a marriage. This is the situation today and in recent years. Basically, we poor believe you shouldn’t get married on slave wages.

    If you examine free childcare, food stamps, housing assistance, college subsidies, etc., etc., it is very clear that an unmarried woman qualifies for a load of help from the federal and state governments if she is NOT married.

    The smart economic move is for people in love (who are poor) to stay single, and yes the lower classes are known to have some mathematical abilities or they usually know someone who can help with survival accounting.

    The reason the lower classes worked in the 60s and 70s is because hard work paid well enough to support a family. Minimum wage now is a joke, compared to childcare credits, subsidized housing, and sometimes phoney disability of both adults and children.

    The poor realize that many corporations offer only slave wages to high school grads (and not everyone should or can go to college). They also realize that the government has stepped in to underwrite these firms, a form of welfare, and they feel it is fair to get their share.

    Many in the black community, facing such lousy wages in the 40s and 50s, had to choose single parenthood and disability and welfare, because it made ECONOMIC SENSE.

    Murray seems amazed that folks starving would not serve on volunteer organizations, contribute to churches, and expound on the virtues of capitalism. They have no time and no money.

    I would suggest to him that a study of the poor will never equal a couple decades of being poor, and that folks will lie and steal when life gets hopeless for them and their families.

    In one sense Murray is right. Government programs that subsidize work only mask the real problem – too many jobs that do not pay a living wage. Even the yikes! lower classes realize that working full time for peanuts is stupid, and they are better off working under the table if they can and let their loved partner collect all she can from a society that reviles them by reducing them to such choices. Or, they might give up and just not work at all until a real job is available. It seems arrogant to ascribe the result (giving up) as being the cause (no decent paying job).

    Murray and others have the idea that we should all play by rules of work hard, get paid little, own nothing and die early in sickness and frustration. We, from the lower class, like Mr. Murray, can count, and we can play the system if that’s the only choice.

    Raise the minimum wage and offer the poor, family liveable wages (like the current $15 U.S. in Australia), and they will leap at the opportunity. Been there, done that in the 60s, along with many others from good old Fishtown.

    My GOP friends will like all the dough we will save on “welfare” when folks make enough so they don’t need such programs anymore – and don’t forget, can get married at last!

    • Hobart says:

      you could also reduce the sales tax to zero and not tax any income under 30 grand.

      • Hobart says:

        Because in the end those taxes will return to them in the form of social welfare minus administrative costs of the middle men to deliver the service. better to let them keep the income.