Ever since the collapse of the financial system in 2008, and the subsequent ballooning of federal debt, there has been talk in elite policy circles about a “grand bargain” to “fix” America’s terrifying balance sheet. Specifically, the “grand bargain” would see reduced government spending on discretionary items, health and pensions (the Democratic “give” on the deal) in exchange for reduced Pentagon spending and higher taxes (the Republican “give” on the deal).
For exactly as long, political analysts have declared the “grand bargain” DOA — dead on arrival. These pronouncements of immediate death were backed up by lengthy essays on the dysfunction of Washington’s political culture, the dysfunction of the major political parties, the hideous influence of lobbyists and “special interests,” the dysfunction of the electorate’s thought process with regards to benefits and their costs, etc, etc, etc. You’ve read that piece or something like it 20 times.
Dan Drezner, an astute political and policy analyst over at Foreign Policy magazine, argues today that a “grand bargain” may no longer be impossible to achieve. He’s “optimistic” (if that’s the right word) for two reasons:
There are two political reasons why I’m more optimistic this time around — although these reasons normally don’t count for much in political science. First, the personalities of the key players suggest that they want to make a deal. Barack Obama was the happiest I’d seen him in a long time when he announced on Friday night that a budget deal had been struck. John Boehner, and his staff, set a nice precedent of being able to bargain with the Democrats while holding his caucus together, and earned some praise from Democrats for his dealmaking. The personal inclinations of the pivotal actors are biased towards cutting a deal.
Second, I think it’s beginning to occur to GOP legislatures (sic) that their crop of 2012 presidential candidates really and truly stinks….
If GOP legislative leaders calculate that they can’t win back the White House in 2012, their preference flips over to cutting a deal with the Obama administration. Bipartisan deals help incumbents and hurt challengers, which means that in cutting a deal, the House Republicans would help Obama while helping themselves. That’s not their first option, but in a political climate when Donald Trump can poll second in New Hampshire by embracing the birthers, it’s not the worst calculation either.
You can read the whole thing here.