I enthusiastically support Todd Purdum's endorsement of the smoke-filled, backroom deal-making process, which, since the Progressive Era, has taken its hits from hordes of goo-goo types who haven't the foggiest idea of how politics works. I do not, however, support Todd Purdum's version of such a process in these angst-filled days of cliffdom:
The outlines of a potential deal are clear to anyone conversant in elementary-school math. The president wants $1.6 trillion in new taxes over the next decade; Boehner and the Republicans have offered to raise $800 billion in new revenues.... Doesn’t a tax/revenue increase of $1.2 trillion sound about right?
Republicans are demanding $600 billion in savings from federal health programs, and another $600 billion in other spending cuts. The White House’s opening offer was about $600 billion worth of cuts in all. Wouldn’t reductions of about $900 billion seem reasonable?
If this were how smokey deal-making actually worked, then smokey deal-making wouldn't be necessary: each side would simply issue some preposterous demand and then the precise mid-point would be located and the deal would be done. But that's not how it works, nor should it work that way.
Lost in all this conventionalist Washingtonese about the need to find a compromise between Obama and Boehner's demands is the much larger and essential objective. The point isn't to just add everything up and divide by two. The point is to arrive at the most judicious agreement possible. And, judiciously speaking, analysts who haven't their heads up their far-right ideological asses agree that vaster revenues through higher rates are needed; that entitlements can be bolstered by methods other than benefit cuts (e.g., allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices); and that job creation--not deficit reduction--is the nation's most urgent need.
Splitting the difference with John Boehner on revenues and spending cuts would only hinder these smart, legitimate goals. The times call for big ideas going forward, and the country has Obama's back. If Boehner & Co. care not to go along, then Democratic defensive maneuvers but no strategic retreat should be the recommended course, till 2014, when this Obama-backing country will have another opportunity to clean House.