Who Won and Who Lost in the Fiscal Stalemate?

The mainstream media are uniformly agreed that the Democrats and President Obama “won” the latest debt ceiling and shutdown standoff and that the Republicans “lost”.  For example, New York Times, reporter Jeremy Peters gives the GOP a rebuke in “Losing a Lot to Get Little”. “For the Republicans who despise President Obama’s health care law, the last few weeks should have been a singular moment to turn its botched rollout into an argument against it.  Instead, in a futile campaign to strip the law of federal money, the party focused harsh scrutiny on its own divisions, hurt its national standing, and undermined its ability to win concessions from Democrats.”
This is all true and, in addition, the twenty or twenty-five Tea Party stalwarts made fools of themselves by being so intransigent.  And 145 House Republicans ran away by voting against the final deal.
But look at the broader picture.  The federal government has been reopened for just three months, until January 15, 2014, and at current funding levels which include the 2013 sequester spending cuts.  On January 1, the more stringent 2014 sequester cuts take effect.  In other words the pressure is growing on the big spenders in Congress to deal seriously with our ongoing debt and deficit crises.
The big spenders have two options.  They can continue to kick the can down the road (i.e. refuse to bargain and force additional continuing resolutions to keep the government open) as discretionary spending continues to shrink more each year.  Or they can agree to make significant adjustments to entitlements to slow down their rate of growth, in return for easing the sequester cuts.
In a more rational world, the big spenders would understand that cutbacks must be made and the two sides would bargain in good faith and reach agreement.  But fiscal conservatives continue to have the necessary leverage to force compromise, and are unlikely to give it up.
Conclusion: the Tea Party “lost” and fiscal conservatives broke even.  The big spenders didn’t “win” but they got a temporary pass because the Tea Party overreacted and was shot down.

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