Sunday, April 10, 2011

Unlearning the lessons of 1995

Fresh off roughly $40 billion in cuts to unspecified bits of spending, the Obama administration, the White House is floating trial balloons that it will come back for more, particularly in defense, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Because that was such a political winner the first time.

Considering that a person born at the election of the Gingrich congress will be eligible to vote in 2012, it's worth recalling what actually happened in the first few years of the Gingrich-Clinton era. First of all, in 1995 "Gangsta's Paradise" was the #1 single of the year. Good times.

Second of all, the budget showdown. The Republicans ran on a promise to balance the budget. After taking office, they spent months and months trying to come up with a budget that wasn't political suicide. This turns out to be ... difficult, as Paul Ryan is discovering, even if you assume the existence of a huge market for unicorn spotters and snipe hunters to get the unemployment rate down. Rather than offer a balanced budget alternative, Clinton followed Sun-Tzu's maxim not to get in one's opponent's way while he's destroying himself. After the Gingrich budget offered draconian cuts in Medicare, Clinton finally stepped in and offered his own alternative that took more years to balance the budget, but made smaller cuts in vital spending initiatives like Medicare.

This is a long way of saying that until there's an official budget from House Republicans, there's no reason for Obama to meet them half way. Because if they want to hit their tax & spending pledges, they'll end up immolating every piece of the domestic budget, including the popular ones. We've been making fun of the Ryan roadmap, but it's not yet yoked around every Republican. Let's give them more time to try to square the circle.

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