The Dems’ sequester demands set up a clean CR and debt ceiling extension as a compromise. Happy now, Mr. Speaker?

A recently translated Qumran fragment contains an element of the story of Moses on Mt. Sinai that somehow failed to make it through the redaction process.

And it came to pass after forty days, that Moses descended from the mountain, and spake unto the Children of Israel, saying, “Verily, I bring unto you good news, and I bring also bad news.”

And the Children of Israel spoke with one voice, saying, “Tell unto us the good news first.”

And Moses replied and said, “I got Him down to ten.”

And the Children of Israel said unto Moses, “That is indeed good news. O Moses, is the bad news as bad as the good news is good?”

And the face of Moses was grave as he replied, “Yea, verily.”

And the Children of Israel moaned, and said, “Tell unto us the bad news.”

And Moses wept, saying, “Adultery’s still on the list.”

Bargaining, as Moses discovered, is a process of give and take. One reason the continuing resolution/debt ceiling imbroglio has been so hard to resolve – above and beyond the fundamental institutional insanity of the Republican Party – has been that the Teahadis started out with a list of ridiculous demands, and set the process up so that doing the normal and necessary things required to keep the government functioning counted as a “concession” on their part, which needed, for their honor, to be “balanced” by some concession from the President and the Democrats.

“We’re not going to be disrespected,”Stutzman said. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

That, it seems to me, is the background to the Democrats’ sudden demand that the sequester budget levels be put on the bargaining table, and Lindsay Graham’s whining about “moving the goalposts.”

Of course, it would be wonderful if the poll numbers had really made the Republicans desperate enough to concede something on spending. But in any case, the bargaining range is no longer between the Republicans’ extortion demands and the Democrats’ refusal to pay ransom, in which case a clean CR and debt ceiling extension would count as a complete defeat for the Republicans. Now the bargaining range contains actual concessions by Republicans, which makes the obvious, logical, rational outcome to the whole unnecessary affair a compromise.

No need need to thank us, Mr. Speaker. All part of our service with a smile.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

10 thoughts on “Bargaining”

  1. I definitely don’t think there’s anything underhanded about this negotiating tactic, but I think people need to stop thinking about negotiating tactics so much. The Republicans are the big culprits here, but some liberals are doing it too.

    This showdown is not going to end because of negotiating tactics. This showdown is going to end because, in the end, the Republicans want the debt ceiling raised and the government reopened too. They don’t want to shoot the hostage. And if you aren’t willing to shoot the hostage, the authorities can just wait you out and wear you out.

    But it’s not really an issue of coming up with the proper tactics to beat Republicans, anymore than there’s some proper set of tactics that would allow the Republicans to beat Obama. This is not a tactical struggle. This is simply a hostage standoff that’s going to eventually end when the Republicans realize the hostage has no value, at which time they will go back to utilizing the one thing that they have that DOES have value, which is the unity of the House Republican caucus, to compromise with Obama.

    And if they are idiots who think they can run the government without compromising with the Democrats, they will just keep on getting themselves into this mess over and over again.

  2. I think there is something underhanded.

    The Republicans are threatening something they don’t actually want – the shutdown and a default – to get concessions from the Democrats. This is not, “We’ll give ground on tax cuts if you don’t reduce the defense budget,” or something. It’s, “We’ll tear down the house unless you give us what we want. That in itself ought to be considered illegitimate tactics. Further, as far as the budget goes, bear in mind that the GOP has refused to negotiate with the Democrats over it since spring. They have had plenty of opportunity, but chose instead to do this.

  3. I’m not at all comfortable with the blithe assumption that the Republicans won’t, in fact, shoot the hostage. The GOP side is being run by folks publicly saying that ‘A default would be a good thing for the world economy’. The leadership of the GOP *may* be against shooting the hostage, but the gun is in the hands of the crazies.

    Besides, “Getting into this mess over and over again” so far, has worked out well for them. Their public polling numbers are abysmal, but the proof in the pudding is the 2014 mid-terms; I’m perfectly willing to bet that gerrymandered districts and billionaire backers will more than make up for any disapproval of the public at large. The last time they gave up virtually nothing in return for the ‘sequester’ which is precisely what the ‘drown it in the bathtub’ folks want. The ‘compromise’ budget offered by the Democrats is the Republican’s number. The Democrats are willing to to start starving granny aka Chained-CPI for Social Security recipients as *their* side of a compromise. The Democrats will own ‘starving grandma!’.

    I’m with byomtov: this isn’t a negotiation, it’s extortion.

    1. Yup. A default might mean a depression, but rich will get paid. And the press is aching to make anything bad be “both sides did it,” which will be easily done a year from now.

      Meantime, as you said, the Democrats (especially Obama)are totally OK with toying with SS cuts, for which they will get 100% of the blame, as in 2010

    2. I’m tending to agree with these two guys, Mark. This morning’s LAT says someone? had the bright idea to trade a mere February default move in exchange for budget talks which I assume will go nowhere? How is that a good deal?

      The debt ceiling has to go. If we got that now, maybe I would think about negotiating on lifting the sequester cuts. Otherwise, why are we helping them? I am all on board for the platinum coin, and I’m not even sure I care much if it’s legal, since no one seems to know anyhow. They’ll probably impeach the guy no matter what he does.

        1. And then there’s this one:

          wherein, he says “If I’m right, pragmatic Republicans have recognized that Democrats are truly determined to end the practice of debt-ceiling extortion once and for all.”

          Then he says that Congress should go ahead and make the Senate(? I think that’s what he means) deal, to avoid default. For 3 or 4 months. I don’t get it.

          1. And this,

            “Obama has long dreamed of sealing the deal on a so-called “grand bargain” — a compromise that would cut entitlement spending and reform the tax code in one fell swoop, in addition to possibly rolling back the sequester — but Boehner has never been able to deliver the GOP votes. ”

            Question: exactly why is this the president’s dream, and on what planet does he imagine he has a mandate for it?

          2. Why is this the President’s dream?

            Well, maybe because he thinks it’s the right thing to do.

            1. There’s a fraction of “entitlement spending” that goes to people who don’t need it. Screams of “NO MEANS TESTING” will not convince me that everybody needs the same formula for Social Security benefits, for example. I would give up mine in a heartbeat if they would also take them away from everybody who has more money than I do.

            2. The tax code is an abomination. There is no accountant in the history of the world who could sit down and write–from memory–a list of the myriad deductions that favor one small subset of taxpayers. And most of those subsets are the more well endowed. There are few special deductions for moderate income folks.

            3. The Sequester is little more than a squeeze on everybody, with no particular thought into who ought to be squeezed, or how hard. It’s a stupid way to do budgeting, and rolling it back would be a start on working on a sensible budget.

          3. I think you make as good a case for this as possible, but (no surprise I’m sure…) it doesn’t convince me. When we have bupkus level of growth and massive inequality, rearranging some deck chairs is his dream? Wha????

            True, a good tax revamp might help growth. But there is of course *zero* chance of getting anything decent from this Congress. So, again, I gotta say, he’s wasting his time.

            My information is, we already met the sequestration debt reduction levels in other ways, so, that would — in a sane world — be off the table. And, it’s not!

            There may be a few people who don’t need every bit of “entitlement” spending that they get, but does that mean that this would be re-directed towards those who do need it? My guess, a big fat no. He can’t get a good deal from these people, end of story. So I don’t know why he talks about it.

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