Friday, November 30, 2012

Now, This Is Negotiating

President Obama spent last week proposing that Congress should pass a bill extending the middle class Bush tax cuts immediately and that, having done so, they could deal with the rest of the “fiscal cliff” issues at leisure.

Brilliant. Like the Republicans are going to give up their leverage before the negotiations begin. That’s like the car dealer suggesting that we agree on the price of the car first and then we will dicker over whether or not the sale will include wheels on the car.

Now Obama has a new proposal bigger and even more ridiculous than his first one: a $1.6 trillion tax hike, $50 billion in 2013 stimulus spending, $400 billion in non-specific spending cuts delayed for a year, and a transfer of debt limit hiking power to the president. His response to Republican hysterical laughter is that at least he has a plan, while they have none.

All of this, while a bit silly on the face of it, does show that Obama has learned something about the art of negotiation. In his first term his practice was to figure out what he thought he was going to have to give up during the negotiations and to offer that as a starting point. We all know how well that worked out. Now he’s taking the approach of starting by asking for "pie in the sky" and making them whittle him down from there. Maybe he’s not as stupid as he’s been looking.

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