Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, David Weigel, who covers politics and policy for Slate magazine, Reihan Salam, columnist for The Daily and blogger for National Review Online, and Karen Tumulty, national political correspondent for The Washington Post, discuss the deal on the debt ceiling and deficit.
So those of you depending on your Medicare checks, military pay checks, Social Security checks—you can breathe a little easier now, at least for the short term. It appears a deal will be reached before the August 2nd debt limit deadline, and large-scale economic disaster has been averted for now. The deal raises the $14.5 trillion debt limit, while promising a trillion in spending cuts with more to come by the years end with either recommendations of a bipartisan committee, or by punishing cuts if the government fails to pass the recommendations.
Reiham Salam said it is important to remember that this is an on-going process.
If the economy continues to be weak, a year, a year and a half from now, its quite possible that many of these cuts will be delayed and so it’s very hard to say how this is all going to unfold.
David Weigel wrote an article for Slate, out today, asking how President Obama and Democrats will justify the spending cuts that they allowed be a part of this deal. He said there is more debating to come before the severity of the cuts is really decided.
The big cuts that will come at the end of this year of or the beginning of next year will either consist of automatic fifty-fifty cuts to discretionary and defense spending, or they’ll consist of something the commission puts together…. This plan, it front-loads some, but it doesn’t get to those big potential cuts until later.
Karen Tumulty said the president’s statement that the deal will “result in the lowest level of government spending since Dwight Eisenhower was president” may or may not be true, but certainly makes for a good talking point.
I don’t even know if statements like that are meaningful, given how much the economy has grown since then and the adjustments for how much the cost of living have grown.
Weigel said one thing that made it hard to come to an agreement was the unfailing opposition among presidential hopefuls, except for Jon Huntsman, to any sort of compromise.
You’re going to see a lot of sound and fury from Tea Party groups and Republicans who have an edge in opposing the deal… The guys who want an advantage want to look more ideological, but most people in the party are going to go for his, because it’s the best possible deal they could have gotten.
He believes the rating agencies are also cognizant that this austerity measure is above and beyond what they should have expected, so he’s not worried by threats of a credit rating drop.
These sphinx-like pronouncements of the rating agencies have become more and more annoying as the process has gone on.
Tumulty said she is cautiously optimistic that the bill will pass, and if it didn’t the pain would be shared.
Pretty much everyone takes a haircut except for a few places.
Salam pointed out that there really aren’t that many spending cuts that would take place this fiscal year.
The spending cuts in this fiscal year would amount to about 0.15 percent of GDP… We’re lowering from what is already an unusually-high baseline. So to those who are worried about this being distimulative, the truth is these cuts are really strongly back-loaded.
He said a big legislative change coming in 2012 is the expiration of tax cuts, which could raise as much as 2.8 trillion dollars.
That’s why I think that it is a much more balanced picture when you look not just discretely at this one negotiation, but rather at the larger landscape and how it’s going to change over the next couple years.
Tumulty said it’s hard for her in this environment to see Democrats and the president “going to the mat”, given how they caved in negotiation over the Bush tax cuts last year.
It’s hard for me to see them, in this political climate, taking that argument too far.