Did We Learn Anything?
So, did we learn anything that relates to strategy from the debt ceiling standoff? Well, no. Here’s a comment from Nick Gillespie that I think sums it up nicely.
But there’s no question that the deal to end the shutdown and to increase the debt limit has settled just about nothing. Government outlays continue to massively outpace government revenues. There is no plan on anybody’s table that seriously addresses that imbalance and spending on old-age entitlements (Social Security and Medicare) is where America is beggaring itself to pay for the retirements of wealthy seniors.
Here’s hoping that these issues – and a discussion of ending the entitlement state for a system that is actually geared to a modern economy and society – actually are addressed in the coming weeks. In a way that is genuinely encouraging, large majorities of Americans want to see spending cut and debt reduced.
He forgot about the fact that the House, Senate, and the President all took significant hits in their popularity as people who were paying attention (which is an incredibly small percentage, I’m sad to say) saw a series of dealings on the level of your average kindergarten class. Gillespie is hopeful that this episode actually alerts Washington to the desire to cut budgets, but I don’t think it did that. I do think it was useful in that we know how far either side is willing to go to “win” in what’s not a game that has no winners.
It seems to me that both sides were intent on gaining some type of upper hand for their political views, as opposed to actually listening to the people that elected them. Sure, nobody particularly likes the health care changes, but I don’t think a mercurial effort to block it really helps. I’ll note that I support the House in its efforts to propose a budget and negotiate from there, and I even liked the fact that they tried. But at some point it became clear that there was little to no strategy in place on either side.
On the Republican side, I searched around quite a bit to find an end goal other than, “end PPACA.” Great, that wasn’t going to happen, because the exchanges opened up the day after this started. The fact that the administration will delay the individual mandate in a couple months because they can’t track who actually has insurance is just sweet irony that will be lost on everyone. But not having a negotiating position, or even a couple intermediate goals, doomed the Republicans to just pushing the same tactic (fund everything but PPACA) with no direction.
On the Congressional Democrat side, I didn’t see a lot more strategy. If anything, they intended to outlast the R’s on stubbornness, by not passing anything that partially funded the government and waiting for someone to come in an legitimately compromise. If anything, I thought they were the most pure in intent, if immature in execution.
The administration bothers me a bit. I’m almost convinced that the administration so wanted to win so bad that it was willing to default and risk the credit rating of the country to do so. Again, you don’t win in these things. You execute and compromise to get to your goals. I didn’t see any of that coming from the administration, and the pain inflicted on the American people is startling in its vindictiveness.
In the end, we’re back on track, minus a month of productivity in the country that will impact markets well beyond October. I’m not impressed, and I wonder what the January deadlines will bring.
That said, I’m optimistic that the American people will at least start to realize what they’ve elected to Washington, and will make savvier decisions in the next election cycle or two. We’ll see.
Updated: Thanks to Keith for the link.