Beltway Conventional ‘Wisdom’ and the Budget Deal

by Peter Kirsanow

The response by some Republicans, talking heads, and Beltway sophisticates to those frustrated and angry about the phony and meager cuts in the budget deal is more than just condescending. It reminds of the attitude and approach of many Republicans in the congressional minority during the Seventies: playing not to lose. They claimed their timidity was a function of their strategic wisdom and an understanding of what was politically possible at the moment.

That attitude was one of the reasons they remained in the minority for 40 years.

As I noted in an earlier post, we’re asked to swallow this insulting deal on the representation that it’s politically/tactically smart — the best we could get at the moment — and that bigger cuts would come in the FY 2012 deal. After all, this is the way things are done in Washington. You rubes from flyover country don’t understand the long game.

That long game has gotten us a $14,500,000,000,000 debt and a $1,700,000,000,000 deficit. But hey, it’s just the way things are done. If you don’t like it, you don’t appreciate how thing operate on the Potomac.

When I was first appointed to the National Labor Relations Board, I’d sometimes ask people who had been around for a while (very good people, by the way) why certain expenditures were necessary or why something  I thought was wasteful or incomprehensible was done in that way. Very often I’d get a blank stare in return, followed by, “Well, it’s always been done that way.” As Mark Steyn says, never underestimate the seductive power of inertia.

Republicans had an opportunity to shift the status quo much more radically than they’re crowing about right now. That’s not merely a minor, temporary setback in a much  longer game. As anyone who negotiates for a living knows (even from out here in the sticks), that’s sets the framework for every subsequent showdown.

The window opens only so often. You never know how long it will remain open.

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