What Obama has offered — and Republicans have refused to accept — is a deal in which less than 20 percent of the deficit reduction comes from new revenues. This puts him slightly to the right of the average Republican voter.
So we learn two things. First, Obama is extraordinarily eager to make concessions. Second, Republicans are incredibly unwilling to take yes for an answer — something for which progressives should be grateful.
What Krugman thinks we “learn” is not what he should be learning and teaching. That Obama has offered more cuts than spending is, I fully acknowledge, not sound Keynesian policy. We need more stimulus, not a contraction of government spending. But Krugman isn’t being fully honest here. What we see here isn’t proof that Obama is eager to make concessions, we see evidence that suggests Obama is eager to get a deal. The concessions are secondary, the deal is the primary objective.
Now, if Krugman wants to argue that any concessions are worse than not getting a deal, or that these particular concessions mean it’s a bad deal and that a bad deal is worse than no deal, fine. But if he thinks a deal is better than default, he has to at least acknowledge reality. To get a deal through a Republican House that has no effective leadership structure and probably more than 60 members who will vote against any increase to the debt limit is not going to be easy; indeed, it may be impossible to get an agreement prior to default. But it’s hard to imagine, short of the McConnell capitulation plan that may not pass legal muster and may not pass the House, that there would be a deal that wouldn’t include a lot of spending cuts.
Krugman’s problem is seldom that he’s wrong on the policy merits of his claims. Krugman’s problem is that when Obama is trying to achieve a political solution–we don’t have a parliamentary system, and with the filibuster he always needed Republican votes even before the Republicans won the House–Krugman sees Obama accounting for Republican stupidity and venality and attributes the stupidity and venality to Obama. Krugman is smart, but his anti-Obama outbursts mailed in from a political fantasyland where reality never constrains Obama’s options are stupid.