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More Politics, Less Governing: Obama Attempts to Appease GOP Yet Again

12.02.10

In another effort to work with the lock-step Republicans on balancing the budget and cutting spending, President Obama unveiled a plan to freeze government workers’ wages for two years.

Apparently this move would save $5 billion out of the $1.3 trillion annual deficit.  If I do some quick math, that amounts to a whopping .38% spending cut.  (Yes, that’s a decimal point in front of the 38.)

So since this is clearly not remotely going to make or break us in terms of the budget given the massive hole we’re in — and it’s also a temporary fix so it’s not something that will cure the long-term debt — there can only be a couple reasons to do this:

  1. Appeasing the Republicans.
  2. Showing the American people that Dems/Obama are serious about our fiscal health.

It’s not a big enough move to actually put any sizable dent in our deficit so it’s all for show.  And I just don’t see how either groups of people will care whatsoever: those who voted for Republicans on November 2nd have already said they don’t think that Obama and the Dems have any interest in doing much with regard to curbing government spending, and the Republicans have shown that they have no interest in working with Obama since they’ve already declared that their number one priority is making him a one-term president.

At the same time, a majority of Americans do want the Dems and Repubs to work together.  But over the past two years, nothing that Obama has done to appease the Republicans has worked.  I mean, he put over $200 billion in tax cuts in the Recovery Act — yes, to stimulate the economy, but also to appeal to conservatives — and yet still people believe that he raised taxes during his time in office.  It’s unsure exactly what “work together” means to people — if it means the Dems just doing things the way the Repubs want them to, well then, that’s not exactly the definition of compromise.

The issue remains: What did the Democrats get for this? It’s not like this is really helping solve any immediate problems, so the American people don’t stand to feel the benefits of 2 million Americans getting their wages frozen; it’s just a political move.  And at the moment it seems like they’ve gotten nothing except approval from the Republicans, which isn’t much of a compromise whatsoever (even if it’s been rare lately) — it’s a concession.

The idea is that it puts the ball in the GOP’s court to offer a concession of their own on the next issue.  But, I seriously doubt that this will affect the GOP’s stance on the Bush-era tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year, which would mean that the Dems just gave up something for nothing.  Not that this is a zero-sum game even though the Republicans play it as such; so, even if it doesn’t feel like the best thing for the Dems now, as long as it ends up moving America in the right direction it could end up being the right play.

I just don’t know that it looks like that’s the case here.

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