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On Democrats and “Caving”

Greg Sargent:

My read: Dems think the debt ceiling battle has successfully established them as the reasonable party that’s seeking true balance on fiscal issues, having agreed to so many GOP demands on the spending cut front. Dems also believe the debt ceiling fight established public perceptions of the GOP’s pursuit of endless spending cuts as being fundamentally ideological in nature, and not motivated by a desire to craft sensible policy. Dems also believe — or hope — this impression was solidified by the House GOP’s initial failure to pass a funding bill when conservatives decided it didn’t cut spending enough. The House GOP finally passed a bill after John Boehner strongly rebuked conservatives, telling them that if they didn’t get on board, he would have to move to the left to get Dem support, and Dems hope Boehner’s anger will be seen as a sign that he’s lost control of his caucus’s ideological wing.

Yeah, I disagree with this. Really disagree, just as I disagree with the term “caving”, whether it came from Landrieu or Sargent or any of the myriad other sources of the term.

Listen, the debt ceiling battle had high stakes. Defaulting on the national debt, regardless of what some say, would have been a disaster. Had such a thing happened, there was every reason to believe that we would have been plunged into an economic crisis so deep we wouldn’t have dug out for decades. It was a hostage situation where the life of the hostage represented the life of the nation. Given those constraints and the unprecedented Republican intransigence with regard to something that has been a routine act of Congress in the past, there was every reason to believe Republicans would, in fact, kill the hostage.

This is where I get frustrated with the DC bloggerati and press. Why were they even surprised about what the Republicans did? Why do they continue to assume there is even the smallest semblance of good faith with these people? This is an authoritarian group of elected officials who were, and continue to, govern in accordance with the wishes of their extreme right wing.

In hostage situations like that, you don’t blow up the building and kill the hostage along with the captors, especially when the hostage is the economic health of the country.

Instead of whining about Democrats caving, it would have been far better for many to recognize exactly how off the deep end their adversaries are and congratulated them for actually managing to get something done that saved us from a horrible economic fate.

Things are different now. If, in fact, jobs are the number one concern of Americans (and polls indicate they are), then it makes complete sense for the President to hold a hard line on his vision for how those jobs could and should be created.

Similarly, allowing the ideologues to withhold disaster assistance for additional budget cuts is policy madness. It goes against everything this country stands for. If you cannot, as a state, city, county, or individual, count on your country to come through when you’ve been devastated beyond your ability to cope, then there’s not a whole lot of point to having a country.

Let me say it clearly: Disaster assistance is one of the reasons a government should exist. To help with things beyond the control of an individual or municipality. And it should not be a hostage. This is the Democrats’ belief, their ideology. And it is an ideology that serves every citizen in this country. As a Californian, the last thing I want to hear is President Romney declare our disaster area after a 8.0 earthquake, only to have Congress dither over which picayune cuts they should make to scrape together assistance.

Not only that, but disaster funding helps the economy. It pays to get people on their feet, construction folks working to repair the damage, homes rebuilt faster. Local economies grow, believe it or not, when they recover quickly from disasters. Businesses recover faster. There are more jobs.

So yes, it makes total sense for Harry Reid to stand on this principle, and ignore the ridiculous demagoguing Republicans are indulging themselves in. But here’s the key: He has to make it clear exactly what it is they’re fighting for. If he’s going to risk a government shutdown, he needs to be crystal-clear that he is standing for every person in every area that was devastated by natural disasters now and in the future. If he fails to do that, it can be turned against him, because we all know Fox News is waiting out there to be outraged by Reid’s “block” of disaster funding.

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