My colleague Tim Carney tweets out this morning: "Ross Douthat's column http://nyti.ms/ofYXAD supports my view: Obama's more about getting the right poltical frame than the right policies." Indeed, Tim's column this morning argues: "Democrats put politics ahead of policy -- again." In the short-term, I think Douthat and Carney are right, the debt deal is a big policy loss for Obama. But if you look just a little bit down the road, Obama has set himself up for some huge policy victories as long as he wins reelection. Consider:
- If Congress does nothing, taxes go up by $3.5 trillion on January 1st, 2013.
- If Congress does nothing, Obamacare is implemented on schedule.
- If Congress does nothing, defense spending is cut by around $800 billion (about $300 billion in first round of debt deal cuts, about $500 billion if Super Congress-fail trigger is pulled).
So if Obama wins reelection, a big if, he begins his second term with three huge liberal policy victories: lower defense spending, higher taxes, and an untouched entitlement state ... all by doing nothing. From there he could go on to increase defense spending (above the cuts in the debt deal trigger) and cut taxes (compared to the $3.5 trillion tax hike), all while having four more years to solidify Obamacare's legitimacy.
As long as Obama strings together enough short-term political victories to get himself reelected, he will be a big policy winner come 2013.