David Dayen

David Dayen is a writer based in Los Angeles, California.

Recent Articles

Turning Points

Five chances to avoid the debt-ceiling fight that Obama missed

(Rex Features via AP Images)
The debt-ceiling fight did not have to go down like this. Along the way, any number of political actors, from the president to congressional Democrats, had the ability to defuse the bomb with which Republicans held the nation's creditworthiness hostage. Here are five missed chances to change the dynamic. OBAMA AND DEMOCRATS COULD HAVE FIXED THE ECONOMY . While this sounds pie-in-the-sky, there's actually a pretty simple solution to our economic woes. It involves higher near-term deficits, particularly spending to create jobs. The Obama administration admitted that it underestimated the extent of the recession, and last Friday's report on gross domestic product from 2007 to present underlines the severity of the downturn. The stimulus package worked but was too small to counter the devastation caused by the financial crisis. If a Democratic Congress had approved a second stimulus plan -- a $154 billion jobs bill passed the House in late 2009, when the Senate had 60 Democratic votes --...

Gang of Meddlers

The Senate bipartisan commission's plan for reducing the deficit throws a spanner in the works.

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., leaders of "The Gang of Six"
The debate over raising the nation's debt ceiling has strayed into dangerous territory. After talks broke down last Friday between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner on a "grand bargain" to cut budget deficits by $4 trillion over the next decade, both Republicans and Democrats rushed to blame the opposing side. But as the House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid prepare to release their own proposals -- which, if the leaked details are any indication, are intended to win the political fight without getting past the policy impasse -- another set of politicians is more culpable than anyone: the Gang of Six, the bipartisan group of senators who announced a deficit deal to great fanfare last week. Before the Gang of Six re-emerged as a force in the debate after the group fell apart earlier this year, Obama and Boehner were working on their long-term deal and, as of last week, were coming close to hammering one out. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid...

And for His Next Trick

Mitch McConnell offers a debt-ceiling plan that is all smoke and mirrors.

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has concocted an elaborate scheme that would allow President Barack Obama a clean shot at raising the debt limit, in three installments, over the next year and a half. Unlike his fellow Republicans, McConnell will not use the debt-ceiling fight to force cuts in discretionary spending or safety-net programs. Instead, he focuses on his chief preoccupation: winning elections for the GOP. McConnell's proposal would create a byzantine system for raising the debt ceiling: The House and Senate would first pass a bill that authorizes the president to submit a request to increase the debt limit, first by $700 billion, then in additional installments of $900 billion a piece. In each case, the president would have to concurrently submit a separate plan to reduce spending by an equal or greater amount. That's the last we see of those spending plans; they are purely hypothetical, and they play no role in the rest of the legislative machinations. Congress...

I Ruined the Economy and All I Got Were These Lousy Tax Cuts

Will the GOP's budget plan spark a double-dip recession?

(Flickr/Medill DC)
Last week, Ben Bernanke delivered a speech in which he agreed that the government should reduce the deficit. However, he cautioned, "a sharp fiscal consolidation focused on the very near term could be self-defeating if it were to undercut the still-fragile recovery." In economist speak, that's a warning to Vice President Joe Biden and the handful of congressional leaders he has assembled to tackle the deficit: Don't cut spending too fast or you'll kill the economy. Already, the federal government's limit on the amount it can borrow has been reached, and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has warned that the government is now taking "extraordinary measures" to meet its obligations. Yet Republicans refuse to raise the limit without big cuts to government spending. Also last week, Sen. Jon Kyl, a Republican from Arizona and a member of the Biden negotiating team, reiterated his party's demand : Every dollar the debt ceiling is increased must be accompanied by at least a dollar in spending...

The Democrats' Trump Card

Democrats threaten reconciliation in the fight over federal spending.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Vice President Joe Biden at talks on a budget deal on Thursday, May 5, 2011, at Blair House in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The Democrat-controlled Senate has yet to vote on a 2012 budget that would serve as a counterpoint to the Medicare-slashing Paul Ryan plan that passed the House. When Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad explained on May 19 why he wasn't taking a budget proposal to the Senate floor, he may have said too much. Conrad, a member of both the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission, which failed to get the required votes for its deficit plan to trigger congressional action, and the now dismantled Gang of Six, which tried to hash out a deal on reducing the deficit, said in a press conference last week that voting on a budget bill in the Senate along party lines now would make it more difficult to use reconciliation to get a budget passed. Remember "reconciliation"? Thanks to the crash civics lesson we all received during the battle over the Affordable Care Act, the public may recall that Democrats used this legislative trick to circumvent a Senate filibuster by Republicans and get health-...

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