Obama’s Winning the Debt Ceiling Politics, But at What Cost?

Rich Wilkins nicely sums up the state of the politics on the debt ceiling fight:

“Let’s step up. Let’s do it,” the president said at a White House news conference between negotiating sessions with congressional leaders. “I’m prepared to take on significant heat from my party to get something done, and I expect the other side should be willing to do the same thing if they mean what they say.”

Let me translate that. I’m more of a man of principle than them, they’re just nuts. I’ll go past halfway, and give them what they want, for a little of what I want, but they won’t even take that, because they’re a bunch of children, incapable of running this government. Basically, that’s how it got reported today too. The President says he’s willing to make a deal, they aren’t. Now he’ll play chicken with them and begin to probably walk back the terms a little more to his favor as the days go by. Eventually they will either negotiate out a deal, or they will look insane. Oh, and by the way, he’s also making the top Republican in the nation, Speaker Boehner, look incapable of managing his own chamber. Insult to injury.

Rich thinks this shows Obama is a good negotiator, but I’m not so sure. The President may well win the media narrative, but at what cost? I think Economics of Contempt has an important point that Obama is trying to scare Congressional Democrats into accepting a deficit deal that’s 100% spending cuts in exchange for taking Social Security and Medicare off the table. Would that be a win? Absolutely not. Do base Democratic voters care about the deficit at all? I don’t see any evidence that they do. There’s no political gain for the President or the economy in a deficit deal. Maybe accepting a right wing plan will make Obama look like “the adult in the room” to the 7% of Americans who are truly swing voters, but that certainly won’t help his party win more seats in Congress next year.

The whole idea that there should be policy concessions in exchange for raising the debt ceiling is completely insane, but Obama directly enabled this by endorsing the idea of a grand bargain from the beginning. It didn’t have to be this way, and it still doesn’t.

From the outset, Obama should have been threatening to cut Social Security checks and Medicare/Medicaid payments first. Starting today, he can say that the August Social Security checks don’t go out unless the Republicans raise the debt ceiling. That is, after all, what Pat Toomey is proposing. Toomey’s nutty enough to defend the immediate benefit cuts, but the vast majority of the Republican Party will knuckle under within a few days.

Toomey Thinks It Would "Break the Internet" If Companies Can’t Track You Online

Sarah Lai Stirland:

Federal legislative proposals to help consumers to effectively stop companies from tracking them online without their knowledge might “break the internet,” a key Republican senator working on the legislation said in a hearing on the issue on Wednesday.

“In a world where people voluntarily share very personal information on web sites like Facebook and Twitter on a daily basis, I’m not entirely sure what consumer expectations are when it comes to privacy, but I am sure that different consumers have different expectations about privacy,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) in a Wednesday morning Senate Commerce Committee hearing on privacy and data security.

Pat Toomey’s Budget is Somehow More Extreme Than Paul Ryan’s Medicare Repeal Budget

Pat Toomey’s budget went down in the Senate, but it’s worth pointing out that it was even more nutty than Paul Ryan’s Medicare repeal plan. CBPP gave it a brutal review yesterday, so head over there for the gory details. The thing I think reporters have failed to get across is how much of a fraud this guy is. Toomey sure talks a lot about the deficit, but the man doesn’t have any credibility on the issue. Just look at the projections his plan is based on. It’s a bunch of goofy supply-sider mythology:

Achieves no actual deficit reduction from revenues. The plan assumes that its proposed “tax changes will be revenue neutral when scored statically…” compared to the revenues that the federal government would collect under current policies (that is, if all expiring tax cuts, including President Bush’s tax cuts that benefit high-income taxpayers, are made permanent). But Senator Toomey claims that eliminating loopholes, collapsing the current personal income tax rate structure into three brackets with lower rates, and cutting the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent “will generate strong economic growth, which will in turn yield surging tax revenues.” Based on this rosy economic scenario, which is more optimistic than the CBO projections that the Ryan plan employed, and on seemingly fanciful estimates of the taxes that the government will collect relative to the assumed size of the economy,[2] the Toomey plan claims revenues will be $1.4 trillion higher over ten years than what the Ryan plan assumes with similar tax policies.

Senator Toomey mistakenly claims that the economic assumptions behind his budget are less optimistic than those of the Ryan plan. But, while Chairman Ryan asserts that his tax plan would boost economic growth, the revenues (and spending, deficits, and debt) shown in his plan are based on CBO’s baseline economic projections — not on the more optimistic economic path he believes would result from his plan’s enactment.

I’m not saying journalists have to be as mean as I am about it, but this is the sort of thing you can look up. Where’s Toomey getting that extra $1.4 trillion in revenue from? That would be a very good topic for a news story in which you talk to economists and figure out whether he’s right. Journalists have much more time to look up things like this than their readers do.

When Pat Toomey is the Voice of Reason…

I can hardly believe it, but Colby Itkowitz says it’s true:

Sen. Pat Toomey said Friday that Republicans should move past the debate on defunding Planned Parenthood – a sticking point in the negotiations over the fiscal 2011 budget — and pass a bill to avoid a government shutdown.

“You know, I’d like to defund Planned Parenthood, but I understand that Republicans don’t have complete control of the elected government, so I think what we should do is cut spending as much as we can, get the policy changes that we can, but move on because there are other bigger battles that we ought to be fighting,” Toomey said on MSNBC.

Republicans did not get elected on a plan to wage a war on women’s health. They did not get elected on a plan to hobble the EPA. They got elected because the public is frustrated with the pace of job creation and wage growth.

Spending cuts will kill jobs, but Obama and the Democrats are willing to agree to some in order to keep the government from shutting down. Boehner originally asked for $33 billion in spending cuts. Obama and the Democrats are ready to agree to $34 billion, but Republicans are still going to shut down the government. Why? To pass the nutty culture war riders Boehner let them tack onto the C.R. The Republican freshmen are going to shut the government down over Planned Parenthood. It’s not about the budget.

Reagan Staffer: Toomey Amendment "Looks Like It Was Drafted By a Couple of Interns on the Back of a Napkin"

Former Reagan policy analyst Bruce Bartlett weighs in on Pat Toomey’s “balanced budget amendment”:

In short, this is quite possibly the stupidest constitutional amendment I think I have ever seen. It looks like it was drafted by a couple of interns on the back of a napkin. Every senator cosponsoring this POS should be ashamed of themselves.

Invective aside, Bartlett presents a very persuasive case for why Toomey’s amendment is total amateur hour. Here is an older post in which Mr. Bartlett compiles a mountain of academic evidence showing why it would be a disaster.

Here are four good posts from Ezra Klein on the Worst Policy Idea in Washington, and Brad Delong’s analysis of a similar idea from back in 1994.

To get a sense of how truly nutty this is, behold:

Not a single year of the Bush administration would qualify as constitutional under this amendment. Nor would a single year of the Reagan administration. The Clinton administration would’ve had exactly two years in which it wasn’t in violation.

Not even Paul Ryan’s ultra-conservative Roadmap plan would be constitutional under Toomey’s plan.

A Visit from the Senator

Lots of red meat for the nutty base in this Pat Toomey speech to the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. A few points:

1. Mr. Toomey has joined the furthest right Senators in calling for a Balanced Budget Amendment. Scott Galupo, one of John Boehner’s former staffers, has called this idea “quite simply, insane.” Conservative columnist Bruce Barlett, a former Senior Policy Analyst for Ronald Reagan, explains why it such a stupid idea, and why it would make recessions needlessly brutal. Mr. Toomey himself is responsible for an enormous portion of the short term debt, and comes to this issue with no credibility whatsoever. If he wants to cut spending. let him propose the spending cuts he thinks are needed.

2. Mr. Toomey also incorrectly compared the United States to Greece. It is not possible for the United States to have a Greek debt crisis.

3. He also seemed not to understand that “printing money, creating money out of the clear blue sky” is what the Fed always does in times good and bad. Is Mr. Toomey really joining up with the hard-money End The Fed cranks?

4. The overarching message was that the United States needs the cold enema of immediate fiscal austerity to start growing again. There is not any good reason to believe this is true. As we learned over the weekend, the cut-and-grow Republican plan for jobs works by liquidating labor and driving down private sector wages.

If you want less money and more real debt, that’s what Mr. Toomey is offering.

Toomey Caught Making Stuff Up About Health Care

D’oh! Jo Ciavaglia catches Pat Toomey lying about employers dropping coverage:

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey says he “misspoke” last week when he claimed the nearly year-old federal health reform law has already forced “many” businesses to eliminate employee health insurance.

At a Monday meeting with the Bucks County Courier Times editorial board, Toomey made the claim while criticizing the Affordable Care Act, which he wants repealed. When asked, he promised to provide a list of companies dropping health insurance or requesting exemptions from the act…

What he found was that no such government list exists of companies dropping health insurance for employees.

Not only is there no government list, there’s also no evidence that employers are planning to drop coverage.

This is why if a politician wants to communicate with your newspaper’s readers, you always make them do it through an editorial board interview, and you never let them submit op-eds like the Morning Call does. Politician op-eds are useless, because they lie.