The White House essentially argues “Don’t worry, be happy. Republicans won’t accept this anyway.” The president is just showing that he is reasonable, willing to negotiate and demonstrating how extreme Republican obstruction is.
No question the Tea Party-dominated Republican Party is still in the midst of its Inquisition phase. But the White House strategy of preemptive concessions is remarkably wrong-headed.
It abandons arguments that the public should be hearing. The president is right to be arguing about jobs, even though Republicans dismiss him out of hand. And he should also be railing about global corporate tax dodges, and demanding that corporations as well as the rich pay their fair share.
Worse, eventually an agreement must be reached in the coming months to keep the government open and to lift the debt ceiling. The Republican would-be Torquemadas demand that the price of lifting the debt ceiling is repealing Obamacare. That is preposterous.
So the Republican leadership (something of an oxymoron these days) will have to cobble together an agreement that likely will depend on Democratic votes to pass the House.
They are likely to offer the president some mix of measures that he has endorsed in one negotiation or another – revenue-neutral corporate tax reform, a chained CPI that will cut Social Security benefits, raising the eligibility age on Medicare, means-testing Medicare, accepting a one-time “fee” for corporate profits stashed abroad – a massive tax break – and using the money to reduce the more ridiculous sequester cuts (particularly for the Pentagon). Then they’ll demand further concessions.
Every concession becomes the starting point for that final deal – from which Republicans then inflict further pain.
The president is right to make the case again and again for the investments we need to generate jobs now and build the foundation for a stronger economy long-term. But his call for a “grand bargain” and his pre-emptive concessions are a miserable way to set up the brutal face-off that will begin once more this fall.