Thursday, April 07, 2011

Time to throw in the towel and 'lead'?

In my last post, I suggested that Paul Ryan's extremist, intellectually dishonest long-range budget plan is a sideshow -- that if there's any chance at all of a long-range tax/budget agreement, it rests with attempts by Chambliss, Coburn and perhaps Crapo to convince fellow Republicans that tax reform will have to increase federal revenues.

Now, though, Ezra Klein relays some intelligence that suggests that Ryan's plan may kill that admittedly distant hope:
Two days ago, I predicted that Ryan’s budget would sell a lot of Democrats on the Simpson-Bowles plan. But James Pethokoukis says it’s also doing the reverse. “I hear what GOP support there was for Obama/Bowles/Simpson debt panel plan is collapsing thanks to Ryan Plan,” he tweets. If that’s true, then Ryan, by yoking Republicans to a radical and polarizing proposal that stands no chance of passage, may have set the deficit-reduction effort a very long way back. 

If that proves true -- if Ryan's budget has taken a plan as right-tilted as Bowles-Simpson off the table for Republicans -- then I think it would be time for Obama and the Democrats to come up with a plan of their own that fully reflects their priorities.  If there is no basis for negotiation, plan B has to be to gird for ideological war -- a two-year battle for public opinion -- and pin hopes of an acceptable long-range budge plan on winning gains in the Congress as well as re-election for the president.  Again, the paradox is that the "courageous" course for he President --"leading" by using the bully pulpit to try to sell his vision to the public -- only makes sense when he has given up on cutting a deal with the Republicans.

I should add that a tweet -- one reporting a mere gust in the crosswinds pushing legislators -- is a thin reed to hang a policy on.  What does remain is the paradox-in-waiting: the president may put up a plan when he has given up on a deal.

Update 4/8: a little implicit support on the Chambliss/Coburn watch from Kevin Drum:

It's Republicans, not Democrats, who tremble like small children before the terrifying gaze of Grover Norquist and are consistently unwilling to face fiscal realities. As soon as a few of them work up the courage to start tearing up those tax jihad pledges that Norquist has bullied them into signing over the years, then maybe we can talk. Until then, it's pretty clear which party is standing in the way of finding real solutions.

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