I’m not going to try to figure out who won or who lost in the negotiations over a final deal, if there is one and it passes, until we actually have all the details. It’s certainly a huge win for Republicans over the status quo — but as I’ve said before, that’s mostly a consequence of GOP electoral victories last November. Whether Republicans won more than that victory would have predicted — that’s where we need to study the details. In the meantime, I will push back, once again, at a couple of things that people are saying about the debt limit/deficit deal and the 2012 elections.
It is not true at all that Medicare cuts agreed to in this deal, regardless of the mechanism, would prevent Democrats from running against Paul Ryan’s Vouchercare in 2012. To begin with, the envisioned cuts are nothing like what Ryan proposed and what Republicans in the House and Senate voted for. But for another, this business of “can’t run on” or “can’t run against” is just not true. Of course Democrats could run against the dismantling of Medicare; what’s more, it would still be just as popular a position then as it would be had there been no cuts.
But on the other side, the idea that Barack Obama somehow is helping himself for 2012 by agreeing to deficit cuts is even more nonsense. Republicans will, regardless of how this turns out, claim that Obama is a tax-and-spend Democrat — in fact, they will argue, as they have been arguing, that he was willing to risk default because he was so insistent on more spending and more taxes (never mind that he wasn't the one risking default and that he wasn't pushing for more spending; that's what they'll say). And if the economy stinks, people will be receptive to that rhetoric. If the economy recovers (and I certainly agree with those who find it hard to believe that any of the potential deals on the table will help the economy), then everyone but partisan Republicans will go back to not caring about deficits and abstract ideas about government spending.