Winners and Losers

Who were the political winners and losers in the debt battle? Per Chris Cillizza, the winners were Mitch McConnell, the Tea Party, Barack Obama, the Congressional Budget Office, and Grover Norquist. The losers were Congress, the Gang of Six, commissions (because congressional commissions have a lousy success record), and liberals.

I would add that unemployed, poor, working class, elderly, and disabled Americans are big political losers, too. You could say that this deal simply underscores the lack of political clout Americans in these categories have, period.

Which brings me to Ezra Klein’s winners/losers list, from a policy perspective. He includes jobless Americans, and the economy in general, among the losers. Medicare is a loser, too, since significant cuts in provider payments are likely in the second round of spending cuts, if the “commission” can not reach an agreement on where the initial cuts will fall.

Ezra argues that supporters of tax cuts and supporters of tax increases are, each and both, winners and losers. It’s indisputable that those of us who want to see tax increases on the wealthy and other sources of revenue are losers in this deal, since we don’t get any of either. Ezra feels that tax cutters are losers as well, because the Bush tax cuts are out of consideration for the commission-to-be:

But that just means the Bush tax cuts will be dealt with at the end of 2012, when gridlock and disagreement will lead to their full expiration. That’s a scenario much more favorable to those who want to raise taxes than to those who want to cut them.

Perhaps, but I think Ezra is wearing rose-colored glasses on this point. What’s to stop Democrats from joining with Republicans to make the Bush cuts permanent, or to extend them again? I don’t see where the Democrats’ track record on sticking to principle justifies Ezra’s apparent certainty that Democrats will allow “gridlock and disagreement” to get in the way of caving to fiscal hawks.

Ezra’s other winners include Medicaid and Social Security, which in the context of this current deal is certainly true. I don’t believe those two programs are going to remain off the chopping block indefinitely. But I do think it’s true, as Ezra says, that the fact the White House insisted on full protection for this country’s only health care program for very low-iincome and no-income Americans shows that Pres. Obama is more concerned for the welfare of the most vulnerable in our society than it seemed he was before this deal. As Ezra points out, most people expected that Medicaid would be sacrificed and Medicare saved, and the opposite turned out to be true, which I have to say does surprise me.


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