Why doesn’t President Obama compromise?


Why doesn’t President Obama compromise with the congressional Republicans on the budget?  As the chart above shows, he already has compromised a lot—more, in my opinion, than he should have.

The congressional Republicans say that the President is more willing to negotiate with the  Iranian government than he is with them.  I would say that the reason is there is more possibility of give and take with the Iranians than there is with the Republicans.

government-shutdownIt is the hallmark of a revolutionary party that when it runs candidates for elective office, it is not for the purpose of participating in government, but of undermining it.   Revolutionaries do not regard governmental power as legitimate.  The radical right-wingers in Congress, and their grass-roots supporters do not regard the present U.S. government as legitimate.  They think it is a good thing, not a bad thing, when government ceases to function.

So long as they hold that attitude, there is no point in trying to work with them.  It is necessary to find a way to work around them.


The Lonely Triumph of Ted Cruz by Charles Pierce for Esquire.  He thinks that Senator Cruz is a true revolutionary, and that his revolutionary tactics are succeeding.

The Insanity is Not Temporary by Ed Kilgore for the Washington Monthly.

Remember the Eunuch Caucus? by “Digby” on Hullabaloo, which is the source of the chart.

The Democratic leaders are the real conservatives in American politics today.  Barack Obama and Joe Biden are defenders of a bad status quo.  But Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan do not attack the administration for protecting Wall Street or waging undeclared wars.  Their objection is to implementing a law to help poor working people pay medical bills.

I think Tea Party Republicans are fully justified in their anger at what is happening to the American middle class.  But their anger is misdirected.  They are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

[Added Wednesday]  As James Fallows pointed out in The Atlantic, (1) there are enough votes in the House of Representatives (virtually all Democrats and enough Republicans) to pass a “clean” resolution that would allow the government to operate without any conditions, but (2) Speaker of the House John Boehner will not permit such a vote.

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4 Responses to “Why doesn’t President Obama compromise?”

  1. Atticus Says:

    Not sure what I think here. We can’t continue deficit spending, can we? It seems like we have no choice, but to reduce spending until expenditure = income. And usually a reduction in budget means a reduction in the INCREASE in the budget. Not an actual reduce of the overall budget – not sure how that fits in here.


  2. philebersole Says:

    As a matter of logic, the way to bring the federal budget into balance is some combination of the following three things.

    1. Raise tax rates.
    2. Reduce expenditures.
    3. Encourage economic growth.

    It is within the power of Congress to do all three. If they can’t figure out how to do it, or don’t have the will to do it, then shutting down the government temporarily or forcing it to default on its legal obligations is not an answer.

    One of the reasons the federal budget is so much out of balance is that President George W. Bush took the nation into two wars and, instead of raising taxes to pay for them, he sought and got tax reductions. The result was that the federal budget was out of balance even during an economic boom.

    When the economic crash came, the budget deficit went out of control. Tax collections fell and safety net spending increased.

    I for one would be willing to pay Clinton-era taxes, which were not high by historic standards, if millionaires and billionaires would do the same.

    I think that, on this one issue, President Obama has been much more responsible than Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz or any of the other Republican leaders. He has long sought a grand bargain with the opposition party in which traditional Democratic programs would be cut back in return for modest tax increases on upper income brackets.

    As the chart above shows, he went a long way to accommodate Republican desires. If you value compromise and fiscal responsibility above all else (I don’t), Barack Obama is your man.


    Actually economic growth has been the main way the United States has dealt with its debt in the past. When the economy is growing, the government collects more taxes and spends less relative to the size of the economy. The war debt from World War Two was never paid off, but the economy grew so much in the 20 years following the war that the debt became unimportant.


    • Atticus Says:

      I’ve been on a few consulting engagements where a company was in massive debt and in need of restructuring to stay in business. As a business the keys to staying in business are the same you mentioned as Government.

      1. Increase revenue (tax)
      2. Decrease expenditure
      3. Grow the company

      If we were to run the Government like a company the first thing to be done is to eliminate waste (reduce spending). You do this for two reasons:

      1. It is easier to eliminate waste than to increase revenue
      2. Removing waste increases efficiency

      So I think what the Government should do, rather than raising taxes, is focus on #2 and #3. Eliminate wasteful spending (decrease the size of the military, reexamine programs, etc.) Simultaneously the Government should dedicate resource to growing the economy and promoting a positive business environment.

      These should automatically increase revenues (tax income) because people with jobs pay more taxes.

      Unfortunately I feel like the government is not doing that. Programs like Obamacare are the opposite. The ACA decrease economic growth because it burdens businesses, it is an inefficient program, and it increases expenditures – this only promotes deficit.

      So while I do not think a Government shutdown is a good thing I wonder if it is worth it in some instances. I’m not sure if this is one of those instances or not.


  3. philebersole Says:

    Atticus, I agree with you about eliminating unnecessary government programs. Unfortunately the ones that I would eliminate are not on the cutting table. During the government shutdown, the NSA spy program will continue as usual, but disability payments to veterans will be suspended.

    The Affordable Care Act does nothing about the reasons medical care is so much more expensive in the United States than in other advanced countries. It rules out having the federal government bargain with pharmaceutical companies, as foreign governments do, to hold down drug prices. And it forces uninsured people to buy health insurance from for-profit companies, rather than offering a public option as a possible alternative.

    If somebody has a plan to eliminate all unnecessary government services, and to finance the needed services without increasing taxes, I’m all for it. I don’t pay taxes for the joy of it, and I don’t advocate raising taxes on rich people just for the sake of reducing their incomes.

    In the absence of such a plan, I advocate a modest tax income tax increase which, because of the high concentration of wealth in the U.S. today, would generate increased revenue mainly from the ultra-rich (but I would be willing to pay my fair share).

    Government budgets, as you imply, are not the same as business budgets or as family budgets. Increasing taxes are not the same as increasing earnings, and growing the government is not the same as growing a business. What we need to think about is how to grow the U.S. economy as a whole.


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