These past few weeks I've followed the debt ceiling debate with unseemly focus, regularly consulting my usual news sources and even branching out to Politico and Talking Points Memo. Now that the circus has concluded I am a bit bereft.
The general line is that President Obama got played because there are no guaranteed tax rises but there are ironclad spending cuts. The next round of negotiations is supposed to be better for Democrats because otherwise big defense cuts are on the table. The safe bet, though, is that the GOP will defend against tax hikes even more than defense cuts.
And so we could be looking at an all spending cut outcome, even though our tax burden is low by historical standards. Paul Krugman is apoplectic about a Presidential "surrender," while others argue that the spending cuts don't go deep enough to get the deficit under control.
I think Obama got the best deal he could under the circumstances, exactly as I argued when the Bush tax cuts were extended late last year in order to preserve unemployment insurance. This time the benefit to this unbalanced plan was an avoidance of default on the national debt. The right wing remains more radical than the left, but the responsible thing remains not to let the nation go over the cliff. This is akin to negotiating with terrorists, but that doesn't mean you let the terrorists win.