Although President Obama is meeting with Congressional leaders this afternoon, it looks like no fiscal deal will get done before 2013. If some stop gap measure is passed, it will suggest that both sides have been working more closely beneath the surface than it has seemed. It’s called a Kubuki dance.
The nature of Kubuki political dances is there is more agreed upon than what meets the eye, posturing being a fundamental part of the dance. The problem is that the posturing can run out of time, just as it did in the car chicken run to the cliff in the movie Rebel Without a Cause referred to in a previous post. One of the drivers jumped but the other had his jacket caught on the door and could not jump.
John Boehner’s jacket seems caught on a Tea Party door. And he can’t free himself. He seems living a life of quiet desparation. Why else would he come up with what he called a Plan B solution, of allowing only the tax rates of millionaires (literally) to go up while maintaining the cuts for others?
He could not even get his own caucus to support it. Surely, he must have realized the Tea Party types would reject the proposal which ignored their mantra of “no new taxes” and did not even have spending cuts attached. So, Plan B went nowhere and only adds to puzzlement at the process. Most observers seem to think Boehner just made a clumsy move and tripped. Could he have been more clever than that in a way yet to be revealed? Did he want to show conclusively how his hands are tied?
On the administration side, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner sent a letter to Congress Wednesday that the federal debt ceiling would be reached this Monday. As if they didn’t know. This intensifies the scary image of a steep cliff only days away, which may be an Obama move to put more pressure on Republicans to make a deal on the debt ceiling now, so as to avoid making it another issue in two months.
That’s when the true debt ceiling will be reached after Geithner has run out of a series of emergency steps – sort of like check kiting – to allow the government to keep paying its bills. Obama wants a debt ceiling deal NOW, so he can’t be held hostage by Tea Party naysayers in another two months.
Boehner may have his jacket caught in the car door, forced to fall over the Clurb, but Obama seems willing to jump, believing the landing will be softer for the Democrats. Polls indicate the Republicans are being blamed more for the impasse. Also, after income tax rates have gone up the Democrats can press to reduce them for most Americans forcing the Republicans to either go along with their proposals or finding themselves in the awkward position of resisting tax cuts.
A pre-2013 deal does not seem likely, but one reached in two or three weeks seems more so, and it shouldn’t do too much harm as provisions can be made retroactive to January 1. Helping that along will be more nerves wracked and louder citizen clammer aimed at Congress. Consumer confidence is already down to the level of last August and who knows when the stock market will lose confidence that anything will get done? Oh, and there is the world economy, by the way, in which we still remain the lead actor even when we aren’t playing our part well.
If a deal does get done in the next couple of days, my guess is it would…..oh, I don’t know. I’ll just wait and see and hope that Obama and Boehner turn out to be great Kabuki dancers, that the stumbles and apparent head knocking were mostly just steps to increase the relief most of us will feel when they actually do come together publicly and take a bow.