Matt Bai: The GOP’s Refusal to Raise Debt Ceiling Just Like the Democrats Passing Health Insurance Reform
Here’s the New York Times’ Matt Bai, arguing that John Boehner’s refusal to compromise on the debt ceiling is just like how the Democrats governed under Obama, Reid and Pelosi.
The unprecedented succession of wave elections in 2006, 2008 and 2010 — meaning, by one popular definition, that a party picked up a minimum of 20 House seats in each of those years — were largely interpreted by both parties in Washington as the wild swings of a fickle electorate. Democratic leaders in Congress saw their 2006 and 2008 victories as proof that a long period of resurgent liberalism was finally at hand. When the voters apparently changed their minds again in 2010, jubilant Republicans rejoiced that we were now a nation of Tea Party sympathizers.
Mr. Obama searched early in his presidency and at other points for some bipartisan consensus; practically his first move in office was to offer Republicans a slate of tax cuts as part of a deal on stimulus spending. But neither side in Congress has seemed especially interested in compromise.
That’s because Democrats assumed after 2008 that they now had a mandate to inflate the federal budget and pass a sprawling national health care system (even more sprawling than the one President Obama ultimately got behind), just as Republicans now believe they have a mandate to slash spending and possibly push the nation into default on its loans.
This entire passage is a mess.
First, Democratic leaders in Congress knew perfectly well that a large part of the Democratic wave in ’06 and ’08 consisted of Blue Dogs and moderate Democrats, including the president, who described himself as a Blue Dog in one of Bai’s columns. So in fact, those tax cuts in the stimulus weren’t just designed to win Republican votes — they were also to attract Democratic ones. Obama himself has admitted that the size of the stimulus was tailored to meet Ben Nelson’s approval. Ben Nelson, as Bai should know, is not very liberal.
By the way, most Democratic leaders in Congress aren’t particularly liberal either. Especially the ones that played the most critical role in the “sprawling” health care reform Bai mentions — one that was modeled on previous Republican bills to attract moderate Republicans as well as appease conservative Democrats like Blanche Lincoln (not very liberal) and Evan Bayh (also not very liberal) — and assholes like Joe Lieberman (nope, not the slightest bit liberal).
The result of all this was the bill was much less progressive than the one Obama campaigned on. It seems odd, therefore, to blame it’s unpopularity on some kind of “liberal” overreach/mandate misinterpretation. It’s almost as though Bai remembers Obama putting Bernie Sanders and Russ Feingold in charge of writing the legislation, then ramming through a single-payer system via reconciliation over the shrieking objections of the GOP and the Blue Dogs.
Republicans, in startling contrast, didn’t run in 2010 on refusing to raise the debt ceiling, thus defaulting the US government on its financial obligations for the first time in our history. They ran mostly on “repealing and replacing” Obamacare. So yes, by threatening default — an unprecedented, reckless gambit — they are overreaching, just as George W. Bush did in 2005, when he interpreted his one-state victory margin as a mandate to privatize Social Security.
When will the Village stop churning out these “both sides do it” pieces?