Free Markets, Free People

Are the chances for bi-partisanship real or imagined

Before we proceed today, let’s take note of a couple of things.

One, President Obama has made an executive decision to freeze federal payrolls for 2 years at a savings of $5 billion over those two years. Good for him. Of course the left is outraged, disingenuously claiming this will adversely effect jobs and the economy. Hardly.

While that money won’t be available to be spent by federal employees, it won’t be borrowed either. Or, it won’t be taken from the pockets of taxpayers who can now spend it directly on creating jobs or buying goods.

"Saving" the money doesn’t make it disappear, it simply means federal employees won’t be spending it (those who earned it will) or we don’t add $5 billion to the deficits of those 2 years.

Bigger political question? Is this actually an act of triangulation? Are we seeing this as the first indicator of an administration attempting to move to the center by getting out in front of the GOP on something?  Doing this before the big bi-partisan meet today between Obama and the GOP gives Obama the advantage of saying "OK, I’ve done something to reduce the deficit, what about you" (to which the GOP can say "earmarks"). Whether this is a political anomaly, just gimmickry or an actual move toward the center remain to be seen.

And two, on the GOP side, and in front of the meeting today, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell got their talking points out in an op/ed in the Washington Post. In sum they say the overwhelming message from the election says focus on jobs and the economy.

Perhaps the most important paragraph in the piece was this:

Despite what some Democrats in Congress have suggested, voters did not signal they wanted more cooperation on the Democrats’ big-government policies that most Americans oppose. On the contrary, they want both parties to work together on policies that will help create the conditions for private-sector job growth. They want us to stop the spending binge, cut the deficit and send a clear message on taxes and regulations so small businesses can start hiring again.

I think that’s mostly right. Cooperation for cooperation’s sake isn’t what is being demanded. Cooperation with a focus on jobs and the economy is. And it is also clear, as Boehner and McConnell state, that the American public wants some sort of workable plan to stop the huge deficit spending and to settle the business climate to the point that corporations and small businesses feel confident enough in it to begin hiring and expanding again. That means settling any number of outstanding issues like proposed tax increases.

Bottom line?  Don’t expect much cooperation from either side on things like energy, immigration, health care and the like except at the very margins.  However, there seems to be some signaling from Obama that he may be interested in more substantial cooperation when it comes to the jobs, economy and government spending/taxation.  If so, it would mean that Obama has set his cap for reelection in 2012 and believes that this is the route to accomplishing that (engage the GOP, give a little here and there, do high profile things like freeze government worker pay, and hope the economy and unemployment improve fairly significantly in the next 2 years so he can claim credit).

My guess is he now realizes that his agenda items are DOA.  But I also think he’s satisfied that what he has managed to get passed (ObamaCare and the like) is probably pretty safe from GOP meddling.  So he’s defining the area in which he’ll work and essentially demanding the GOP cooperate.  It will be difficult for the GOP to refuse that.

It is going to be interesting to watch the two sides maneuver over the next two years.   In ‘94 much the same sort of situation existed.  Bill Clinton was deemed irrelevant.  He came roaring back via smart politics and GOP mistakes to be reelected easily. 

We’ve already talked about the new narrative the left is trying to impose – the “GOP in charge” narrative, in which the GOP will be tagged with every failure of government even though Democrats still control the Senate and Executive branch.  But that won’t matter if the GOP House moves aggressively to do what Boehner and McConnell outline in their op/ed.  Make Democratic Senators defeat GOP House legislation.  And if it manages to get through the Senate, make Obama veto it.

Obama claimed that the difference between ‘94 and ‘10 midterms was “you’ve got me”.  That led to the worst “shellacking” in recent memory and much worse that ‘94.  Another difference between ‘94 and ‘10 is the new media.  If the GOP sticks with its guns, makes every attempt to carry out what it said is the people’s message and is thwarted by the Democrats, that story will actually be told. 

It will indeed be interesting to see how the big meeting goes today.  I don’t expect much in terms of substance, but if Boehner and McConnell are smart they’ll essentially relay their op/ed message to Obama and then stand back and see how he chooses to react.

For the moment, popular sentiment is on the side of the GOP.  They need to retain it by actually doing something.  If they don’t and the left succeeds in painting them in a negative way, 2012 could see the backlash from hell, 4 more years of Obama and possible Congressional gains by Democrats.



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9 Responses to Are the chances for bi-partisanship real or imagined

  • RE: the Payroll freeze.

    Did he freeze cost of living increases only or also GS automatic Step Level increases?

    If not the later, this is all smoke and mirrors because the automatic step level increases for years of service will raise the federal payroll.

  • “Whether this is a political anomaly, just gimmickry or an actual move toward the center remain to be seen. ”

    IMHO, this is the same as Obama’s cutting $100 Million from each of his Department last year.  This is merely a head-fake to the center.  A $5 Billion saving over the next two years is commendable but is a drop in the bucket with the deficit exceeding $1.4 Trillion!!  $5 Billion equals 0.35% reduction in the deficit (Yeah, you read it right – it is about 3 tenths of 1 per cent).  Hardly even a ripple within the Tsunami of spending that is going on.

    And, just as he made a big deal over his $100 Million savings last year, he has made a big deal out of this.  Just as in last year, if pressed on this by the slacker Press Corps, I predict Gibbs will proclain $5 Billion is a really big number.  Where, in reality, it is merely budget dust in the overall scheme of things.

  • McQ –  Cooperation for cooperation’s sake isn’t what is being demanded. Cooperation with a focus on jobs and the economy is.

    To which the democrats will respond, “Cap and trade and START and immigration reform and health care reform and getting out of A-stan and trying KSM in Manhattan and Card Check ARE focused on jobs and the economy!  EVERYTHING WE WANT is focused on the economy.  And we’ve got economists like Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman to explain it to all you dummies who can’t see that (because you are hateful, racist teabaggers).”

    Let’s recall that ObamaCare was pitched, at least in part, for its economic virtues.  Ditto all the “green” crap coming out of DC these days.  “Job creation” is the new “It’s for the children!”

    McQ[T]here seems to be some signaling from Obama that he may be interested in more substantial cooperation when it comes to the jobs, economy and government spending/taxation.  If so, it would mean that Obama has set his cap for reelection in 2012…

    On the first item, I disagree.  The Dear Golfer may be interested in the appearance of cooperation, but we’ve learned over the past several years that “bipartisanship” means “agree with us and do what we want”.  My guess is that today’s meeting, unless somebody has done a lot of work in coaching The Dear Golfer to keep his mouth shut, will go like his last “big” meeting with GOP leaders: he will hector and bully them, then rush to the cameras and a fawning press corps to tell us how HE reached out but those nasty ol’ Republicans (they are afraid of the teabaggers, you know) just won’t go along.

    On the second item, I think that he’s always had his cap set for ’12.  Where else can he get such a sweet gig?

    Finally, let’s not forget another key player: the left, personified by SanFran Nan.  She has already made clear that her priority as minority leader is to STOP him cooperating with the GOP if such cooperation endangers the liberal wishlist.  If you think that the left has been screaming about federal government pay raises, wait until the GOP starts pushing for real tax cuts, serious budget cuts, and the like*.


    (*) If they have the stones, that is.  I’m not convinced that they do.

    • When Nanny Pelosi can…straight-faced (cruel, I know…all that Botox)…tell me ObamaCare and unemployment are jobs CREATION programs…
      these liars will tell us any damn thing.  They don’t even try to lie artfully any more.

      • I think she already HAS done that sort of thing.  Didn’t she claim that food stamps were the greatest job-creating program Uncle Sugar has?

  • Each side has at this point a diametricly opposite view of what the solutions should be  (see the post about the “Krugman” plan for the deficit)

    So chances for bi-partianship = ZERO.   More to the point, I don’t want any cooperation with the Dems (and I suspect they feel the same way)

    You know when you get “bipartianship”?  When one side is politically in danger and needs to cave.  And President “I won” doesn’t seem like the type to ever admit he needs help

  • On every front, the federal government is creating more investment-killing tax uncertainty, issuing endless pages of new bureaucratic regulations on the economy, and preventing firms from taking actions that could create hundreds of thousands of new positions and kick-start a muscular recovery with real legs.

    The best thing that could happen to America is to have all of DC consigned to a golf course where they could do no harm.