Wednesday, March 13, 2013

President is a bad negotiator

In the latest battles with Congress, President Obama has not exactly shown himself to be either a great negotiator or a defender of the middle class. Obama would have done much better if he had called in the guys from the hit TV show “Pawn Stars.”

The guys at the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop would never have begun their back-and-forth negotiations by giving away everything as their opening offer.

Once again, however, Obama has laid out first what looks like a best offer. While saying he won’t accept cuts that force the middle class to bear the burden of deficit reduction, he has offered cuts in entitlement programs as his opening position.

He seems to think this will persuade the other side to counteroffer. The Pawn Star guys would know better. That didn’t happen with the debt ceiling, continuing resolutions on the budget or the sequester.

It’s fantasy to believe that if only the president is willing to cut veterans’ benefits, Social Security and Medicare, then the Republicans will cooperate with the Democrats in passing a budget and moving on to other important issues.  

Ironically, Republican members of Congress had to come clean last week and admit they had no idea that the president’s offer—beyond what it should have been or not—was even on the table. They have been so focused on blaming the president for not offering to change retirement programs that they weren’t aware that he had already done so, in writing, on the White House website.

The right wing has claimed they are not making counteroffers because they have been asked to give too much, but as Jackie Calmes in The New York Times writes, “Unfortunately, it appears that Republicans in Congress have decided that instead of compromising, instead of asking anything of the wealthiest Americans, they would rather let these cuts fall squarely on the middle class.”

The president is claiming he is protecting that middle class while offering changes in Social Security and Medicare. He should not be so quick to take a deal.

In the last election, the one thing Obama and Mitt Romney agreed on was that there was a clear choice. Voters made their choice not to cut further into middle class programs, not to focus only on deficits, not to give away the store to anti-government forces. 

That would be the Pawn Shop guys’ opening position and it should be Obama’s as well.

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