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.