What We’ve Got Here Is Not a Failure to Communicate

Sorry about light posting; I have a nasty head cold and just want to nap now. But here’s a post to tide you over for awhile.

The White House and Republicans in Congress can’t negotiate so much as an order for pizza. So the sequestration kicked in on March 1, and there seems to be no movement in Washington toward cancelling it before it does all kinds of economic mischief. Both the White House and congressional Republicans seem confident that their side is holding the winning political hand in this mess.

Jonathan Chait, Ezra Klein, and others are documenting that what’s going on here is way more than a failure to communicate. Republicans seem to be operating in a complete vacuum of information about what the President is proposing. Ezra provides an example:

My column this weekend is about the almost comically poor lines of communication between the White House and the Hill. The opening anecdote was drawn from a background briefing I attended with a respected Republican legislator who thought it would be a gamechanger for President Obama to say he’d be open to chained CPI — a policy that cuts Social Security benefits — as part of a budget deal.

The only problem? Obama has said he’s open to chained CPI as part of a budget deal. And this isn’t one of those times where the admission was in private, and we’re going off of news reports. It’s right there on his Web site. It’s literally in bold type. But key GOP legislators have no idea Obama’s made that concession.

Jonathan Chait adds,

…if Obama could get hold of Klein’s mystery legislator and inform him of his budget offer, it almost certainly wouldn’t make a difference. He would come up with something – the cuts aren’t real, or the taxes are awful, or they can’t trust Obama to carry them out, or something.

Ezra provides the real-world example of Republican strategist Mike Murphy, who wrote in Time that the sequestration impasse would melt like snow if only the President would make some simple concessions. “…six magic words can unlock the door to the votes inside the Republican fortress: Some beneficiaries pay more and chained CPI, budgetary code for slightly lowering benefit increases over time.”

And, of course, the President has already said those words and put those issues on the table, must to the distress of most progressies. In a series of Tweets Ezra posted, we see Murphy going from denial the President made those concessions, to saying, well, yeah, means testing, but he rejected chained CPI. When informed the President never rejected chained CPI, and in fact has expressed support for it, Murphy moved the goalposts and brushed off chained CPI as a “small beans gimmick” that Republicans really don’t care about. What Republicans really want is to raise the Medicare eligibility age and, oh, yes, no tax increases. And the President needs to “earn back their trust.”

Ezra explains,

The bottom line on American budgetary politics right now is that Republicans won’t agree to further tax increases and so there’s no deal to be had. This is not a controversial perspective in D.C.: It’s what Hill Republicans have told me, it’s what the White House has told me, it what Hill Democrats have told me. The various camps disagree on whether Republicans are right to refuse a deal that includes further tax increases, but they all agree that that’s the key fact holding up a compromise to replace the sequester.

But it’s unpopular for Republicans to simply say they won’t agree to any compromise and there’s no deal to be had — particularly since taxing the wealthy is more popular than cutting entitlements, and so their position is less popular than Obama’s. That’s made it important for Republicans to prove that it’s the president who is somehow holding up a deal.

This had led to a lot of Republicans fanning out to explain what the president should be offering if he was serious about making a deal. Then, when it turns out that the president did offer those items, there’s more furious hand-waving about how no, actually, this is what the president needs to offer to make a deal. Then, when it turns out he’s offered most of that, too, the hand-waving stops and the truth comes out: Republicans won’t make a deal that includes further taxes, they just want to get the White House to implement their agenda in return for nothing. Luckily for them, most of the time, the conversation doesn’t get that far, and the initial comments that the president needs to “get serious” on entitlements is met with sage nods.

So, no, what we’ve got here is not a failure to communicate. It’s willful, premeditated pig-headed ignorance.

29 thoughts on “What We’ve Got Here Is Not a Failure to Communicate

  1. My mom used to drive me nuts with this, but she was right; honey and lemon and chicken soup!
    ‘Hope you get well soon.
    I’ve been paying attention to the political world, and the bottom line is Republicans want to stick it to all but the rich.
    I’m 58, have 2 bad knees, a back problem, and arthritis in my left thumb. I work my “day job”, then pick up what extra I can, PLUS do maintenance stuff on my home property, my deceased brother’s property, my “stuff storage” property,help out my daughter when I can, then keep Moma happy.I frankly don’t know if I can keep up this pace for another 10 years.I guess this is the reward for being a lazy liberal.

  2. Gee – I wish I knew this Liberal Socialist President Obama who fevers the nightmares of Conservatives and Republicans.
    The one I know, is a Centrist Democrat, who is willing to give the Republicans way more than they deserve, and WAAAAAAAY more than is necessary.

    The kids, the seniors, and the disabled, among others, have done nothing to increase the national debt – which is reducing every day, in case anyone in DC ever bothered to check, instead of falling back on some Peterson/Koch Brothers meme, replayed on an endless loop. The debt was the creature of “Republicans Gone Wild!!!” in the past decade, plus – something else that’s gotten lost in the DC Villager BS sauce. Something which Cup O’ Morning Schmoe, and the rest of the “No Labels” losers, and Ed Rendell, and the other well-paid shills from the “Fix the Debt (aka: Feck the Poor, Young, and Old)” crew, also, convienently never ever bother to mention.

    Feel better, maha.
    Try some hot tea with either rum or brandy, lemon, and some red-pepper flakes sprinkled in.

  3. I know most of you don’t have time, but his is a link (way off topic) by a Harvard Scholar who is Head of the Ethics Dept named Larry Lessig. It’s 42 minutes – and it’s probably the most important thing I’ve seen all year. When he talks about discipline in a movement, he sounds a lot like Barbara.


  4. First and foremost, feel better!What I recommend is a little more hippie-ish but it does help…Hot rocks(straight from the crock pot) set on the sinus points on your face, then on the side of your neck(add one to each temple here) , then your neck and shoulders..I swear it breaks all that junk loose so your head stops feeling like it might explode..Also there is this spot between your thumb and first finger, down in the crease..applying pressure (like a clothes pin at least, but i find a little harder is better..i use my other thumb and first finger..keep applying pressure for about 2 mins , then release..repeat as needed(works for a headache too!)..also petty (sp) pots are fantastic..it’s like waterboarding for colds( i am all for sactioned torture of pesky germs that slow me down).
    If you don’t take my advice, listen to CU… but just take the brandy and go to bed..LOL
    Erinyes, funny you mention being a “lazy liberal” .You Hear rush and glenn talking about these types on their shows all the time, while they line their pockets with millions of dollars to say nice things about the group barbour use to be involved in. None of those rightie mouth breathers could survive a day in the real world working a real job, hell I do more on my day off then they will all year while they sit around and call me lazy..gotta love wingnut welfare!

    The right thinks the right thing was done. They think this is the start of the end of entitlements and someday we will all look back at them as hero’s who made it happen. But just wait till little lulu can’t get into the campground to park her RV this summer at a national park..she will be all kinds of unhinged and blame Obama..so we have that to look forward to! Ahhh good times.

    And you know”It’s killing” mitt to not be there in the white house now…HA! Better him then us…is he ever gonna go away?

  5. Lots of sleep and the various suggested remedies, any that sound good to you. Take it easy!

    When informed the President never rejected chained CPI, and in fact has expressed support for it, Murphy moved the goalposts and brushed off chained CPI as a “small beans gimmick” that Republicans really don’t care about.


  6. Whiskey and Honey, even my grandma liked that. But chaining the ssa benifits to the inflation does away with two things. The Congressional cost control, and the Grandma’s.
    The way I see this is the same way as all austarity folks do. I now live on SSA, just having retired several years ago. I am an active voter. Which is the new push on voter laws. But, if grandma’s would get off their duff, and put this in front burner, It’s time to retire earlier. No to the 70 and older push, push for 55. How long since the republicans cried that we cannot support Social Security. How many years have we raised the cost of education for the many, and given free rides to the republicans? How many years have we cut grandma’s benifets to the bone, and paid for the bullets to overthrow other governments? How many years have we not had a draft so some rich kids could complain about the military entitlements? How many times must one look the other way, to avoid the uncomfortable subjects here.
    To get your kids to work only involves you retiring, For you to retire means we have to have a functioning Social Security, since companies do not want to pay for your retirement by giving you better wages, so you can save them. Banks don’t want to pay the interest they did in the 50’s-90’s, on the monies you deposit, and wall street charges evermore for thier churning of the accounts you have with them.
    I know, Rant, but consumerist society. Take note, you get what you pay for. Shouldn’t you have the best for what you pay?

  7. OT, but I couldn’t resist sharing some great news from the left coast (thanks ahead of time for indulging me). In Ugly Numbers for State GOP:

    “Too white, too right and too uptight,” says a veteran political consultant. “That’s why the Republican Party can’t come back in California.”

    …End-result numbers for the California Republican Party can be seen in the rosters of elected officials: Democrats hold every statewide office, control the Legislature and dominate the congressional delegation. The GOP lost seven legislative and four congressional seats in November.

    Trend lines for the California GOP are in free-fall. For example:

    • Republican numbers have fallen to 29% of registered voters. Independents have grown to 21%. Democrats are at 44%. At the current rate, independents will surpass Republicans before the end of the decade. And independents tend to vote and think a lot more like Democrats than Republicans….

    • Women — especially Democratic women — turn out significantly more than men. A million more women than men voted in California last November, according to the roundtable. “Men seem to be more disaffected and women more engaged,” says Tony Russo, the group’s political analyst.

    Women are the Democratic Party’s core strength, representing 57% of its registered voters. They voted overwhelmingly for Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax increase, Proposition 30.

    • Latinos are shunning the GOP. And within months they’re projected to surpass whites as California’s largest ethnic group. Among Latinos, 57% are registered Democrats, 25% are independents and the GOP is No. 3 at 18%, according to the roundtable.

    Moreover, Latino Democrats have been turning out at a higher rate than Latino Republicans or independents.

    • The GOP isn’t faring much better with voters under 30. The roundtable reports that 41% are registered Democrat, 37% independent and just 22% Republican. They amounted to 15% of the November vote — double that of 2008 — and were big supporters of Prop. 30 and President Obama.

    We have a long ways to go toward fixing this state, but things are definitely looking up.

  8. moonbat,
    That’s terrific news, because, after all, it was CA who gave us Reagan, and fecked-up modern Conservatism.
    They owe us.

  9. Sadly, you’re right Gulag, We do have a lot to answer for. Let’s not forget Richard Nixon as well.

    Along those lines – ensuring that Reagan or Nixon never happened again – if I had the money, I’d start a program to Help Conservatives Flee This Progressive Stinkhole – my own form of “political cleansing”. Its slogan would be: Stop Bitching and Start Packing. I thankfully haven’t been in any arguments with conservatives lately, but I can’t wait to use this line on them.

  10. OT, but interesting – politicians, both Republicans AND Democrats, think that their constituents are more Conservative than they really are:


    Most voters in most districts, don’t watch the cable TV news shows, or read political blogs, and politicians do, so the politicians end up believing all of the “The country is a center-right country” talking points, while their constituents are actually center-left on many issues.

    Epistemic closure, indeed.

  11. Gulag, that is an amazing study in your link, and I don’t think it’s really OT, either.

    HuffPo also has the story, and this bit is my favorite:
    Constituents, on average, supported gay marriage and universal health care by 10 percentage points more than their politicians had estimated. For conservative politicians, the spread was around 20 percentage points, meaning that conservative legislators tend to greatly overestimate how conservative their constituents actually are. “For perspective, 20 percentage points is roughly the difference in partisanship between California and Alabama,” the authors write.

    In fact, 20 percent is greater than Dubya’s approval rating at the end of his run, iirc.

    Weird, isn’t it, how once in a while statistics can make your day?

  12. Don’t look for me to comment before tomorrow in the late afternoon, since my widowed Mom will finally have her hernia operation tomorrow morning.

    Wish her luck, folks!!!!

  13. Good Luck, Gulag!

    In those (old) movies where the gent asks his lady friend at the end of the date, if she would like to come up to his apartment for a drink, he’s not thinking about libations and she knows it. If she accepts the offer, she’s at least considering refreshments that don’t require glasses or ice. The point being, he’s saying one thing, but he means something else – and she knows it perfectly well.

    The entire GOP borg collective end their critique of the budget impasse with the same line – it’s up to Obama to propose something ‘serious.’ What’s amusing here is the Obama knows what ‘serious’ means – the GOP wants Obama to be the one to propose the draconian cuts to Medicare and Social Security that the GOP can only agree to on a bipartisan basis. If the GOP propose the cuts, then the GOP gets the BLAME for the cuts. Which can’t happen – the chief victims of what the GOP wants would be the only segment of the electorate in their corner. (Old white males who feel ‘entitled’ to Medicare and Social Security.)

    Along those lines, there is some brilliant ‘code’ – brilliant in a satanic kind of way – in using the phrase – ‘cuts to entitlements’. To the wingnuts, this means cuts to Medicare and food stamps and programs for those lazy darkies. But inside the beltway, the meaning to people who understand the federal budget, means cutting Social Security and Medicare. The numbers dictate that cuts on the scale the GOP demand can’t be accomplished even if you totally eliminate Medicaid and Food Stamps. So the ploy is to ‘make’ Obama be the one to say it – and provide political cover for the GOP. My opinion is that massive changes to the tax code would be possible to close loopholes for businesses and even offshore shelters – but only if Obama suggests what the GOP is thinking – but can’t say out loud.

    I see only one way for Obama to win – he needs to specifically propose the changes in the tax code that would make liberals and moderates cheer and say he (Obama) is willing to negotiate with the GOP ANY tax cut proposals they want, on any scale they want to propose them, but the GOP has to be just as open and specific as Obama was. This is staking out your turf – fair taxes – and asking the GOP – who have staked out their turf – cutting spending – to put up or shut up.

  14. erinyes,
    She passed all of her heart tests last week, so we’re off for her hernia surgery in a little over an hour.

    Keep us in your thoughts. 🙂

  15. Get well soon mamma Gulag!!!

    Speaking of moms and sons: OT …Here we have a story of the 22 yr old cleaning his gun while hanging out with his mom..He decided to “check the gun” by pulling the trigger and he blew off his finger. News reports say his mother was his by the flying, unattached finger…This takes giving the finger to someone to a whole new level. No news as to if the finger was able to be put back on or not.

    I love to see moms and sons spending quality time together,,, don’t you?

  16. Mom’s back home, and the surgery went fine!

  17. Great news !! Hooray Mamma Gulag!!!!Hugs to you both! Now we just got to get Barbara and Mamma on the mend and we will be in good shape!

    While you were out,CU, we learned hugo is dead, jeb bush is flip flopping on immigration( oh boy here we go..he’s gearing up for 2016..Heaven help us all), and Kate Upton has a doppleganger who is a russian mail order bride( in case your in the market) – oh and also the company that makes clothes for the pope has a new bunch of pope gear pre- made in small , med and large because there will not be time for fittings once the new pope is chosen. This Prada loving gal was relieved to see the outfits will once again be finished off with the red loafers..whew!BTW i think the pope should be chosen by who rocks those Prada loafers the best ..No wonder they don’t let me pick. 🙁

  18. Kate Upton has a doppleganger who is a russian mail order bride

    This is sad. I keep confusing Kate Upton with the scrawny preggo who is married to Prince William.

    Unfortunately, I do know who Jeb Bush is, though.

    i think the pope should be chosen by who rocks those Prada loafers the best


  19. Thanks, maha, and everyone, for your kind thoughts.

    Mom had some bleeding in the middle of the night, but when I finally spoke to her surgeon’s nurse, she said that was to be expected.
    No, instead an 81 year-old, and her 55 year-old son, were worried that something was seriously wrong.

    I know the latest trend is to get poeple out of hospitals as soon as possible, and that’s partially because leaving one ASAP, minimized the possiblity of infection, but sometimes, maybe it’s better to leave an elderly patient there overnight, so that they worry less, since they feel that someone more competent than an adult child who’s NOT a doctor or nurse, is there for them, if needed?

    And I was worried because this wonderful checkout clerk at our local supermarket, told me about how her husband had 3 hernia surgeries by the same doctor, and in the final one, the doctor cut-off the blood supply to his testicles, and he had to get them removed.
    I was very sad for her and her husband, but, needless to say, glad to know that my Mom had a different doctor.


    Yes, the staff should send you away with written information that includes “What To Expect (and How To Deal With It).” It can save a lot of fear and trouble.

    I hope your mom is better today!

  21. joan,
    Yeah, before the operation, they promised some detailed “Dispatch Instructions.”

    Only what I got was minimal.

    I had left my Mom with my sister (who’s very competent and smart), while I brought the car around, or else I might have raised a bit of a fuss at how little information they’d been given.
    It didn’t mention any complications, or what you might look out for – and the actual “instructions” are very limited.
    But, I figured it’s not unusual for someone who had surgery within the past 24 hours to bleed a little from the area that was operated on, it’s just that it would have been a comfort to see that in writing, and not assume that everything is ok, at 5am.

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