A Prediction: The Shape of the Grand Bargain/Betrayal

Susquehanna, PA: Downtown Streetscape 7/30/12

Progressives this morning feel they’ve pushed their Hurricane Sandy well into the North Atlantic where it can blow its diminished winds at the wastes of Greenland.

           The reality is otherwise.

           Confronting the real possibility, after the first Presidential Debate, that Mitt Romney could win, Progressives threw themselves and their money into Barack Obama’s campaign.  After 2000, no one on this side of the great divide believes the man and his party don’t matter.

           In 2012 ours was a clothes pin choice.  We pinched our nostrils to avoid the stench from the Department of Justice, the drone strikes, the banking/securities inaction and the safety-net sell-outs – which for us all but overwhelmed the Administration’s accomplishments in governance, healthcare, the environment and job creation.

           We extracted nothing for our support – nor could we since we lacked leverage or an alternative – except hope about social/economic issues unfounded in experience.

           Barack Obama needs Progressives like a bull moose needs a hatrack.  Thomas Frank has reminded us of this from his ‘Easy Chair’ over at Harper’s Magazine.  (Most recently, Oct. 2012, pp. 6ff.  I’d link to it, but Bullwinkle did their website.)  Especially now, before the start of the 113th Congress (Jan. 3, 2012).

           As Mitt Romney agonised over a graceful, brief capitulation, Paul Krugman’s Very Serious People (VSP) began screaming Americans were Wile E. Coyote poised in the air over the abyss beyond the fiscal cliff.  This afternoon, the President will join the VSP chorus.

           And, the Great Betrayal – the Grand Bargain – begins.  By Inauguration Day (Jan. 21), it will all be over.

           The Rs and the VSPs have to close the deal during the Lame Duck session.  Every new D in the 113th Senate is well to the left of the soon-to-be dead duck s/he replaces.  And, the new Rs are further (even) to the right.  It’s now or never for the granny starvers.

           Already Sen. Schumer (D-NY) has negotiated himself down to a top tax rate on the wealthy from 39.4% (the Clinton rate) to 35%.  Watch out below!  Rep. Boehner (R-OH) has signaled willingness to talk about revenues – maybe, sort of.

           Note the silence on obvious reforms such as removing the income cap on the Social Security tax.  Had that been done during the Bush II spasm of tax revisions, Social Security would have been assured well into my (unborn) grandchildren’s retirement.  But that was precisely the point of not doing it then.

           Note, too, the absence of discussion about whether there’s a cliff at all.  And, observe the complete unwillingness to understand we’re talking about not a family deficit but national choices on investment.  Where are we going to put our money for the future?

           Less education, less medical care, less security for the elderly, less infrastructure: if you want to see how this is going to play, take a look at what the Lords of the Rinks are doing to NHL players this fall.  They’re sharing their pain but not their gain.

           There will be another element of the Great Betrayal, one that won’t be obvious until the new Congress.  Filibuster reform will not happen in any way that removes the Rs’ veto over judges and appointments generally.  That will be the price for acceding to some sort of revenue increase.  A very bad deal which will be defended on the most dishonest of grounds: ‘We had no choice….’

           My favorite news source headlined Wednesday morning, ‘Millions Without Power Following Election’.  Progressives, we’re all Jerseyites now unless we greet the outage with outrage.