The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The Terrible Legislative Catastrophe No One Will Remember in November 2012

Posted on | July 22, 2011 | 7 Comments

For weeks we’ve endured non-stop sturm und drang about the debt-ceiling crisis, and the tightrope negotations between President Obama and Republican leaders in Congress:

President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner rushed Thursday to strike agreement on a far-reaching plan to reduce the national debt but faced a revolt from Democrats furious that the accord appeared to include no immediate provision to raise taxes.
With 12 days left until the Treasury begins to run short of cash, Obama and Boehner (R-Ohio) were still pursuing the most ambitious plan to restrain the national debt in at least 20 years. Talks focused on sharp cuts in agency spending and politically painful changes to cherished health and retirement programs aimed at saving roughly $3 trillion over the next decade. . . .

Maybe my hunch is wrong, but isn’t it possible that all this is being waaaayy over-dramatized?

Here’s what I mean: The great Clinton-Gingrich budget showdown occurred in December-January of 1995-96, a mere 10 months before Bill Clinton faced re-election. By contrast, the current debt-ceiling battle is being fought 15 months ahead of the next election, during the summer, when millions of Americans are on vacation and ignoring the news. (Except, of course, the genuinely important stories about teen starlets and such.) Therefore, it seems to me, the current debate — and whatever godawful “bipartisan compromise” legislation brings it to a conclusion — is less likely to affect the next election campaign than was true of the 1995-96 showdown.

Something else: When Americans went to vote in November 1996, the economy was already clearly in recovery — the dot-com boom was beginning — and Clinton’s evident willingness to compromise on welfare reform stood him in good stead for re-election.

Now? Nothing I’ve seen suggests we’re anywhere near ending the Obama recession, and some indicators — e.g., “strategic default” in Greece — suggest the economy could actually be worse in November 2012 than it is now. And Obama’s poll numbers lead me to believe more Americans are seeing him as the problem than as the solution.

Of course, I could be wrong. But the Democrats who see this debt-ceiling battle as a predictable re-run of the 1995-96 budget showdown, with Obama replicating Clinton’s re-election triumph, may ultimately prove to be a lot more wrong than I am.


Comments are closed.