Monday, October 14, 2013

On Negotiation...

A term being thrown around the political arena a lot lately is the term "negotiate". The problem is that there isn't much actual negotiating going on. Rather, what we have been seeing is a whole lot of extortion and grandstanding. Republicans have shut down the government rather than negotiate. Obama (mistakenly, in my opinion) has said he is refusing to negotiate. And now our nation is stuck in the mud.

"Negotiating" with someone implies trying to reach agreement by mutual give-and-take. If you aren't offering anything of value to the other party, or if what you are "offering" is the lack of destruction of their or jointly-owned property, you are not negotiating. Indeed, the latter case is clearly extortion. Unfortunately, this is precisely what Republicans are doing today. Their "negotiations" have been nothing but constantly shifting their demands, while steadfastly refusing to offer anything in return. Repeal ACA? No? Ok, how about a delay. Or a repeal of some of the taxes? Or automatic spending cuts every time we refuse to sign a budget? And what are we offering in return that Democrats would want? Nothing, other than abiding by previously agreed-upon budgets and not defaulting on the debt!

Obama is infinitely better, but I think he has muffed the messaging. He should be very clear that he is (and has been) willing to negotiate and make major deals, under two conditions

1: That the government is running under the agreed-upon budgets with no immediate threat of shutdown, and that the debt ceiling is removed as an issue

2: That Republicans meet half way, and make concessions on taxes, military spending, and other Republican priorities

For the last five years, it has been Republicans who have refused to negotiate, balking at anything that even smells of a tax increase. Given our ultra-low tax rates (third lowest of the 34 OECD nations), there is no solution to our long-term problems that does not involve more revenue. Until Republicans realize this, and move beyond the childish extortion tactics they are currently engaged in, there will be no major progress politically. Republicans need to look back at the Ronald Reagan who actually existed and emulate him - a man who met Democrats in the middle, accepted a dozen tax increases, and made the nation a better place.