Trigger happy

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) leaves a House Democratic Caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 29, 2011. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

I’m watching the coverage of the debt deal, and it’s difficult listening to people like Chris Matthews who manage to sound clueless as they let their emotions overcome their ability to think.

Of course this is a short term win for the Tea Party and the Republicans. They had leverage, as enough of them were crazy enough and dumb enough to let the stalemate continue through August 2nd, risking economic catastrophe.

Also, President Obama took the calculated risk of going for a grand bargain. Those efforts failed, and that made it more difficult in the end game. That said, he earned long-term political points, as the public was educated about the need for a balanced approach and polls show they support that in overwhelming numbers.

Now we move to the new gang of 12 and the next phase of the debt deal. Ezra Klein makes a great point, arguing that Democrats will likely prefer the trigger as opposed to a deal if the GOP won’t budge on revenues.

Start from the premise that Republicans will refuse any deal that includes significant new revenue and Democrats will realize that that’s just fine from their perspective, as Republicans can either cut a deal with them in December 2012 or all of the Bush tax cuts can expire. Now take a good, hard look at the trigger.

The Joint Committee is charged with finding $1.5 trillion in savings over 10 years. The trigger would only cut $1.2 trillion over 10 years. The Joint Committee is likely to cut Social Security, Medicaid and a host of programs Democrats aren’t going to want to touch if taxes aren’t part of the deal. The trigger exempts Social Security and Medicaid, and $1 out of every $2 in cuts comes from the Pentagon. The Joint Committee is likely to cut a deal without revenue, and Democrats will have to explain to their base why they permitted, say, Medicare cuts while letting the GOP reject tax increases. The trigger lets Democrats blame Republicans for protecting the wealthy in the 2012 election.

The trigger would also result in massive defense cuts.

So, if the Democrats prefer a trigger if a deal can’t include revenues, and many Republicans will want to avoid defense cuts, this gives the Democrats leverage!

These details are important, and commentators like Matthews should wait to understand these dynamics before whining about the deal.

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