Dogs and horses in usual circus act by Boston Public Library, on Flickr

Step right up! Come one, come all to the continuing Grand Bargain Circus!

Just as when last we checked, the red clowns are still refusing to get in the car and leave the ring until the Ringmaster makes an enticing offer. Some of the red clowns have been imbibing in the fermented popcorn and their demands are becoming increasingly delusional. Today the red clowns are going wild, making all of the outrageous demands that they can think of to force the Ringmaster to beat more concessions out of the audience.

All the rage for the past couple of days has been the red clowns saying that they won’t get in the car if the Ringmaster reduces the number of those in the audience without health insurance to about 30 million and provides a sizable return to the Ringmaster’s donors in the health care sector rewards the insurance and pharmaceutical industries handsomely.

That simple demand which the Ringmaster refuses to countenance has festered into a raging torrent of demands, among them that the audience fork over more taxes to offset the tax liability of the rich and also acquiesce to more environmental destruction.

The drama here under the big top is growing as the demands rise…

GOP Leaders Aren’t Even Pretending the Debt-Ceiling Fight Is About Spending

red clownsLast time around, Tea Party-inspired conservatives wanted spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit. This time, not so much.

The Tea Party is less popular than ever, And while the debt ceiling remains a negotiating chit for the GOP, Republicans leaders are hardly even pretending that this is about spending anymore. …

Consider the list of demands House leaders have issued in exchange for raising the debt ceiling — or really, just suspending it — which Derek Thompson called “insane” this morning. The big items are, in order: a one-year Obamacare delay; tax reform according to Paul Ryan’s budget; and energy reforms that include approving the Keystone XL pipeline and eliminating almost every major White House environmental regulation. Coming in the last two slots are spending reforms and a few health-spending tweaks. …

It’s tempting (if unprovable) to see this as a symptom of the decline of the Tea Party as a force in national and Republican circles: The GOP has taken the techniques of the insurgent movement, hollowed them, and repurposed them for the establishment’s purposes.

While one set of red clowns is running around screaming that the tent must be burnt to the ground, another group is sharpening its knives, ready to help the Ringmaster more efficiently fleece the audience. If the Ringmaster can’t be forced to fully back off of his program that rewards the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, the red clowns could be made happy by jiggering the tax code to make the audience pay more and the red clowns and their cronies proportionately less. The red clowns know that blue clowns want to reward their rich cronies, too, but have a greater need to distract and fool entertain the audience:

How Republicans Can Win Debt Fight

Obama’s refusal to negotiate is pure posturing, an opening bid. The president seems to hope congressional Republicans will move from their preferred starting position — repealing Obamacare and securing budget savings equal to the amount of the debt-limit increase — to a middle ground that will “force” him to come to the table. Republicans could seek a delay of the individual and employer insurance mandate, the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, or both, instead of a full repeal of the health-care law. The more reasonable the Republicans’ request is, the harder it will be for the president to refuse to engage them. …

There is obviously middle ground. Both sides could be satisfied with a debt ceiling increase of about $1 trillion –an amount sufficient to get past the 2014 elections –accompanied by an agreement to enact revenue-neutral tax reforms that broaden the base and lower rates. …

This solution would appeal to House and Senate Democrats because it spares cuts to the entitlement programs they desperately want to protect and fear the president might agree to cut as part of a more comprehensive deal. Obama and Boehner had entitlement cuts on the table during their 2011 deal that fell through. Faced with a decision between raising taxes and protecting entitlement spending, Democrats have historically chosen the latter.

Bend over America! The red clowns want to shove a pipeline in! The red clowns, mindful of the blue clown’s need to assuage its constituency on environmental matters are helpfully preparing to provide the Ringmaster and the blue clowns with a “blameless opportunity” to reward an industry that the Ringmaster has gone out of his way to accomodate at the expense of the environment.

Republicans See Keystone Pipeline as a Card to Play in Last-Minute Fiscal Talks

As a possible government shutdown looms, environmental activists who oppose construction of the Keystone XL pipeline say they are increasingly alarmed that the project might become a bargaining chip in last-minute negotiations between Republicans and President Obama to avert a fiscal crisis.

Republicans who support the pipeline have already signaled that they intend to demand approval of a permit for its construction in exchange for their willingness to support Mr. Obama and raise the nation’s debt ceiling next month.

”We feel like this is our only option,” said Representative Lee Terry, a Nebraska Republican who is one of the leading pipeline supporters. Mr. Terry said members of his party were working to draft legislative language that would ”deem” the pipeline to be approved if an agreement is reached to raise the debt ceiling.

Blue Clowns Warm Up To Red Clowns’ Ideas

Yesiree, the deficit is dropping like a rock, while unemployment and social needs continue to rise. Even the biggest clowns in town know that tight fiscal policy is stunting the economy and austerity is harming 99% of the audience. Nevertheless the Ringmaster and his blue clown friends are happy to get on board with austerity.

Watch now as over in ring two, Babs T. Blueclown prepares to accomodate the red clowns, suggesting that the pressure to rob the audience will work better in November:

Mikulski calls for grand bargain by mid-November on sequester, taxes, spending

blue clowns
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) called on Congress Tuesday to adopt a spending resolution that funds the government through mid-November, and then hammer out a grand bargain that would cancel the sequester, look at mandatory spending cuts, and raise taxes. …

“Nov. 15 keeps the pressure on … both sides of the aisle to get the job done,” Mikulski said on the Senate floor.

She defined “get the job done” as finding some way to find an agreement on issues that have split the two parties since Republicans took over the House in 2011. …

“We can do that through additional strategic cuts,” she said, noting the first part of her equation. “As an appropriator, I’m willing to look at them.”

Look! Up there on the tightrope! Why it’s Debbie Wasserman-Blueclown and she’s juggling a hungry homeless child, food-stamp subsidies and a large meat cleaver!

Careful with that cleaver Debbie!

Watch breathlessly as the ideological heirs of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four, OOPS! Three Freedoms protect the traditional constituency of the blue clowns.

But wait, what’s this? Ah, the blue clowns are happy to rob the audience, so long as the red clowns take the blame!

House passes GOP plan for $39B cut in food stamps

Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, told USA TODAY’s Capital Download on Thursday that Democrats are not opposed to food stamp cuts.

“I’m certain that we could embrace as House Democrats some measure of cuts,” she said. “I mean, every program can benefit from some savings.” But the first go-round the Republicans’ proposed cut was $20 billion. Then they passed an amendment that was $31.4 billion. And now that still isn’t good enough for the Tea Partiers. Now we’re at $40 billion. What they’re saying is that in America it’s OK for people to go hungry.

But what of the Audience – how are they enjoying the show? Why they’re positively mesmerized by it – and the media carnies have got them bamboozled…

Poll: The Public Thinks the Deficit Is Growing and Defaulting on the Debt Is A-OK

The first part is demonstrably false. The second is just deeply misguided.

If you’re the sort who’s prone to despair about the public’s generally low-level of policy knowledge, this chart from Bloomberg won’t help. About 59 percent of Americans told the news organization in a recent poll that they believe that the deficit is growing. It isn’t. This is not a matter of opinion, like whether Obamacare will be good for the country or whether Miley Cyrus should cool it with the tongue thing already. It’s just math. The deficit is down from its trillion-dollar recession heights to about $642 billion this year, and the Congressional Budget Office expects it to keep plunging. Even before sequestration, the deficit was already falling as a percentage of the economy faster than at any time since World War II. …

This could be an opportunity to lash at the media for failing to push back hard enough against Republicans who talk about exploding deficits or act like we’re on the precipice of a Greece-style debt crisis. But I’m not even sure that’s the problem. Human beings are notoriously resistant to information that challenges their preconceived notions. And a plenty of people are comfortable thinking of Washington as full of wastrels spending the country towards calamity. Maybe that’s because they’ve been trained to by decades of rhetoric. But it’s a pretty entrenched outlook.

Clowns playing marbles, when the circus comes to town by Boston Public Library, on Flickr

The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return.” — Gore Vidal