A Disgraceful Deal

The deal negotiated last night is a disaster politically and economically. The liberals who went all out to elect Barack Obama have been reacting with increasing dismay to the president's combination of center-right impulses and inept negotiating habits.

The right plays hardball, is rewarded for its intransigence, creating incentives to play more hardball. Its success in this crucial round portends an even harder line when Congress has to take up Part II of the bargain.

That construction is heads-I-win-tails-you-lose. As a precondition to the next increase in the debt ceiling, Congress either votes even deeper cuts or a "trigger" causes them to take effect automatically.

Liberals are supposed to be cheered because the deal spares Social Security and Medicaid -- for now. But they will be on the chopping block before long. Tax increases are not part of this round, but not ruled out as part of the second stage of the negotiations; of course, there is no way Republicans will go along with tax hikes on the rich.

This deal is a disaster economically, politically, and ideologically. It moves the entire economic debate to Republican territory. It gives the GOP plenty of bragging rights going into an election year and gives Democrats nothing to take to voters except a battered green eyeshade.

Economically, the deal will weaken a fragile economy, raising unemployment, and leaving the administration without fiscal resources to fight the prolonged slump.

President Obama was going to change the tone in Washington -- remember? Well, he delivered on that promise. The tone is now one of Democratic capitulation and two-party conservative ideology.

Obama turns his back on his own party's principles and then expects a docile party to do his bidding. House Democrats are now expected to provide something like a hundred votes to get this appalling deal approved. It would be far better for them to vote down the deal and force the president to turn to the 14th Amendment to honor the debt of the United States, which he should have done all along.

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