Is it not remarkable that the two individuals mentioned in the previous posts — Messrs. Koch and Greenwald — hold such opposing ideas of who the President is and what he’s trying to do? Four trillion dollars — the size of the “grand bargain” under consideration at one time in secret negotiations — is a number that looks like this:
And what of fiscal stimulus? The President’s statements about fiscal policy are not easy to reconcile, to say the least. He once spoke favorably of fiscal stimulus, although the package that emerged from Congress early in his administration was far too small to do the job. More recently, he has clearly advocated fiscal restraint (“austerity”), without acknowledging or explaining the about-face. And in the process he drew the absurd comparison between the finances of a sovereign government and those of an ordinary household.
It is possible that the President’s pro-stimulus and pro-austerity ideas might be reconcilable over a long time horizon, but what time horizon does he have in mind? What caused him to change his mind about the direction of our fiscal policy? What specifically does he wish Government to do more of? What does he wish it to do less of? And when does he want such changes to take effect? That this deal is being done without his position on these questions known reveals an undemocratic process the goal of which is to effect great substantive changes in Government policy. It is nauseating.
These are the kind of questions that elections — and the campaigns that precede them — are designed to answer, in broad outline. While no presidential campaign could precede the debt-ceiling negotiations, that is precisely the point. That is why it was so irresponsible of the President to try to insist on a “grand bargain” to be made behind closed doors. He was wrong to embrace the Republican strategy of turning what should have been a procedural no-brainer (a vote to lift the debt-ceiling) into a back-door path for making big substantive changes to Government that are in a direction most Democrats did not expect and are unlikely to approve of.