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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How Do You Negotiate with Crazy?

Posted by on Wed, Oct 9, 2013 at 8:54 AM

So, this is the way budget negotiations usually work: The Democrats want higher taxes so that they can spend more money on the poors, the olds, the kids, the coloreds, and other societal parasites, while Republicans want lower taxes on the wealthy and want to spend less money on everybody except the military (and military contractors) and of course prisons (because we have to do something about all those parasitic poors, olds, kids, and coloreds, and all the sex and abortions they're having)!

Or something. Stereotype it anyway you want. But the point is, budget negotiations are usually about budget priorities: How much to spend, where to spend it, and how to raise the revenue. And in a typical budget negotiation, each side agrees to stuff it doesn't want in exchange for stuff it does, depending on the relatively strength of the two parties. For example, House Republicans might eventually drop their demand to slash $40 billion from food stamps in exchange for $40 billion of cuts elsewhere. (Maybe. Or maybe they just like to take food out of the mouths of hungry children. I dunno.)

But what we never see as a sticking point in these negotiations are points of agreement—you know, stuff that both sides want. For example, even in the midst of our ongoing government shutdown, essential services are left untouched. Our armed forces continue to be paid and resupplied. Our federal prisons continue to operate. Nobody's fighting to get rid of either, and so both are off the negotiating table.

Which brings us to the debt ceiling. In the past, the debt ceiling has never been held hostage as a negotiating tactic because presumably neither party wants to destroy the full faith and credit of the United States Government, neither party wants our nation to sacrifice the enormous economic advantages that come from the dollar serving as the world's unchallenged reserve currency, and neither side wants to risk the incalculable cost of plunging the nation and the world into a steep economic collapse. Except now, apparently, the Republicans do, for how else to understand the Republicans' offer to trade a hike in the debt ceiling for the death of Obamacare?

Either Republicans really don't understand the consequences of default—in which case they're crazy—or they are holding a gun to their own heads—in which case they are crazy. Either way, I'm not sure how you negotiate with crazy.


Comments (45) RSS

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Here's a crazy idea, less government spending (including military) and higher taxes, mainly in a national sales tax.

Crazy, I know.
Posted by Sugartit on October 9, 2013 at 9:06 AM · Report this
The Dow dropped over 300 points per day, during the 2008-2009 recession. A drop in the Dow to, say 12,000 (it's above 14,700 now) will get the GOP moneyed interest screaming. That may be the only leverage to get the House to fund the government again.
Posted by pat L on October 9, 2013 at 9:07 AM · Report this
Well, you could offer to give them what they want in exchange for taking away their weapon. For Republicans, allow states to defer health care implementation on an annual basis (a vote every year by every state that wants to defer). For Democrats, permanently eliminate debt ceiling and funding votes, plus make it so that the minority party in either house can submit bills for a vote one day a week. Democrats get a functioning government back and Republicans can make it so Texas does not have health care. Everyone wins!
Posted by efbrazil on October 9, 2013 at 9:07 AM · Report this
McDermott (WA-7) knows how to negotiate with crazy: he is a trained psychiatrist. Does he know how to negotiate with terrorists?
Posted by Celebratin' Murrican fraydumb w/ shutdown yee-ha on October 9, 2013 at 9:11 AM · Report this
Goldy 5
@3 You mean everyone wins except the millions of working and middle class families in states controlled by Republicans.
Posted by Goldy on October 9, 2013 at 9:11 AM · Report this
You DON'T negotiate with Crazy, because Crazy isn't interested in negotiation.

The GOP shut down the federal government out of pure selfishness and spite: they lost the fight over the ACA, they lost the 2012 presidential election, they're the minority party in power, and yet they believe all of this is irrelevant and that if they yell and scream and stomp their feet enough the President and the party in power will simply give int to their completely irrational demands, much like a small child expects to get all the candy it wants by throwing a tantrum in the checkout line.

And if this is the route they're going to go down, then it seems pretty clear the President has only one real option: to not give in, to not capitulate, and to show the screaming child that such inappropriate behavior will not elicit the desired outcome - no candy for you, little screaming monster.

To do otherwise, as most parents already know, is to give the child carte blanc to continue to engage in such disruptive behavior, at which point the battle is lost.
Posted by COMTE on October 9, 2013 at 9:16 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 7
Don't forget the teabaggers are Ayn Rand fanatics.

Rand's books always contain a part where the protagonists (i.e., freedom-lovin', hard-workin', bootstrappin', capitalist heroes) reach a point where they feel they can no longer stop the evil liberals from forcing them to accept equality and they blow up their own property in a show of "if I can't force you all to do things my way, then no one can have it!" righteousness.

One of the requirements for admission into Galt's Gulch in Atlas Shrugged was that the person had to destroy everything they owned back in the "Real World."

The teabaggers might have reached that point where they think blowing up the whole government is the only option they have left.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on October 9, 2013 at 9:18 AM · Report this
@5 correct. I want to say "screw those guys for voting republican" but I still don't want to live in a bifurcated country and I don't want children and poor people to suffer unnecessarily. It is that compassion that makes me a lousy negotiator.
Posted by wxPDX on October 9, 2013 at 9:23 AM · Report this
A better question is why do you keep borrowing money from a crazy loanshark.
Not too bright....

Your shitty President steals 42¢ of every dollar he spends from future generations.
That is why he must crawl to the GOP to get the debt ceiling raised. Every year.

If the debt ceiling is not raised your shitty President and the Democraps will have to pick and choose what will get funded with the 58¢ of revenue they actually collect.
That is not a bad thing.
In fact, it is a Great Thing™.

The question the Democraps have to ask is do they want to push the issue further and spook the money markets and start paying more interest on the TRILLIONS their shitty President has already borrowed or do they want to cut their losses and play nice?

The ball is in your court. Assholes.
Posted by Debt makes you a Slave. Get used to being treated like one. on October 9, 2013 at 9:23 AM · Report this
Fenrox 10
First thing first, stop the crazy. Limit the avenues that crazy people have to make others crazy, to promote crazy, to revel in crazy. You fight fire with water.
Posted by Fenrox on October 9, 2013 at 9:27 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 11
as i heard on NPR this morning: Obama and Reid want this shutdown, they won't negotiate, they won't compromise, the GOP has passed bills for this or that funtion that one of their constituencies wants, default won't be that bad, we can service the debt and just not fund things the tea party doesn't like.

the GOP controls the House, and the House controls the budget. they're not powerless. edwin meese planned this well.
Posted by Max Solomon on October 9, 2013 at 9:31 AM · Report this
I bet your coworkers and ex wife might know something about it.
Posted by hmmmmm on October 9, 2013 at 9:34 AM · Report this

nice analogy, but you got a few parts wrong.

the unions and other Democrap constituencies are the squalling 2 year old. And your shitty President doesn't know how to say "no". Which is why he steals 42¢ of every dollar he spends.
Posted by your lack of self-awareness is impressive on October 9, 2013 at 9:42 AM · Report this
raindrop 14
Interestingly, then Senator Barack Obama voted AGAINST raising the debt ceiling casting 'No'. It passed by only a FOUR point margin. What comes around goes around in Washington D.C. Obama is a duplicitous liar. Thank God I voted for John and Sarah and then for Mitt and Paul.
Posted by raindrop on October 9, 2013 at 9:45 AM · Report this
theophrastus 15
Why not at least consider when/if sitting at the bargaining table having something to bargain? just confronting them with the baseline against their many stupid things to cut isn't bargaining. That is, show up with gun-control, voters-rights, womens-health initiatives, minimum-wage, immigration reform .... then: "so ok, you drop your opposition to the ACA and we'll table voters-rights (for now); otherwise no deal!" that's how bargaining is done, or at least appear more traditional and sensible.
Posted by theophrastus on October 9, 2013 at 9:48 AM · Report this
@14 "thank god I did that stupid thing and lost."

Truly Jesus has blessed you.
Posted by GermanSausage on October 9, 2013 at 9:56 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 17
@15: Reid has said, and Boehner has admitted, that they HAD A DEAL: the Senate accepts a budget $70 billion lower than they wanted, and the debt ceiling is raised.

Boehner reneged. because he does not control his caucus.
Posted by Max Solomon on October 9, 2013 at 10:03 AM · Report this
blip 18
Denying health care and food for poor families are hills worth dying on for these people. Republicans are depraved beyond redemption.
Posted by blip on October 9, 2013 at 10:19 AM · Report this

what is keeping you and your fellow bleeding hearts from feeding the hungry?

go for it.

actually, what you want is to steal money from the next generation. asshole.
Posted by you don't fool anyone on October 9, 2013 at 10:25 AM · Report this
Oh yes, clearly Republicans care about future generations. They let them go hungry now while giving tax cuts for the rich. All because they care about future generations.
Posted by GermanSausage on October 9, 2013 at 10:38 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 21
Obama has finally reached the same conclusion that Neville Chamberlain did when Hitler tore up the Munich agreement only six months after it was signed. Let's hope that he's not in the same weak position as Britain and France were when they finally decided that enough was enough.
Posted by Matt from Denver on October 9, 2013 at 10:44 AM · Report this
raindrop 22
@16: Conversely, you can think of someone as saying "Thank God I voted for Gore in 2000." People don't regret their choice just because their choice lost.
Posted by raindrop on October 9, 2013 at 10:46 AM · Report this
@22, ah but that's another example of false equivalency.

Gore was the superior choice, and the people who voted for Bush have blood on their hands.
Posted by GermanSausage on October 9, 2013 at 10:48 AM · Report this

we see the syphilis has reached your brain.....
Posted by leaky condom on October 9, 2013 at 10:55 AM · Report this
raindrop 25
@23: Sorry, but the false equivalency is your opinion. Logic dictates otherwise.

If the context is the conviction of the voter, then my statement (@22) is correct. It doesn't matter what you think of the voter or of the candidate the voter chose.
Posted by raindrop on October 9, 2013 at 10:55 AM · Report this

Why do you assume that. Many libertarians are firmly against the QEs and financial manipulation, and wouldn't care about a DOW anything except what the market fairly values it at.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on October 9, 2013 at 11:16 AM · Report this
Negotiate with crazy? It's an abusive relationship with crazy. Can't get out of a loveless marriage because of the kids, so sometimes it's better to let them fly their crazy in public to show everyone they have 'Issues'.

Kids, don't fuck crazy.
Posted by Large Hardon Colluder on October 9, 2013 at 11:19 AM · Report this
@26 Because libertarianism is mostly a shallow form of anarchy for those in dad pants?
Posted by Large Hardon Colluder on October 9, 2013 at 11:24 AM · Report this
Boring Dad is Boring 29
Default is not on the table. Stop being sheep.

If/when the debt limit is hit, $14 billion-ish per day in revenue will still flow in.

The Treasury Dept will prioritize payments to bondholders, pay the next highest priority claimants in the order determined by law & administration policy, and everyone else gets in line for when cash is available.

That's not default. It’s a forced spending cut. It may be highly disruptive, but it's not even close to defaulting like these hacks keep braying.
Posted by Boring Dad is Boring on October 9, 2013 at 11:36 AM · Report this
blip 30
I would rather err on the side of not shrugging this off. Right now we have Christian fundamentalists in Congress who believe our president is the antichrist and think Jesus is about to whisk them away to heaven while the rest of us burn. Destroying everything is not a concern, it's their plan. As long as the inmates have the keys to the asylum I will be expecting the worst.
Posted by blip on October 9, 2013 at 11:48 AM · Report this
kk in seattle 31
@29: You really ought to be Secretary of Treasury, handling the calls from Social Security recipients when you decide to stiff them so you can cut checks to the Chinese central bank. You can tell them, "Hey, this isn't a default. It's a spending cut. And you can tell your landlord I said that." (BTW, there is no "prioritization" law or policy. Because no one, other than the Republicans of 2013, think the US should default on any of its obligations--obligations that the Congress incurred.)
Posted by kk in seattle on October 9, 2013 at 12:11 PM · Report this

The fed would have to write an awful lot of software in the next week to do the sort of prioritized settlement you've outlined there. I think you might not have a very good understanding of the volume of notes and bills (and repo, in the modern QE world) that the Fed handles every day.

And that "everyone else gets in line" part, that's what's called a "liquidity crisis." Which would be at least as damaging as outright default (an unprioritized default might proportionally affect parties better to able to absorb the loss, while prioritized liquidity cutoff will more or less by definition affect those least capable of coping with it).
Posted by robotslave on October 9, 2013 at 1:19 PM · Report this

Because one of the explicit roles of federal government is feeding and providing medical care for its citizens, damn it! Says it right there in the Constitution! Somewhere!

If Congress finally saying no to Barak 'drunken sailors ain't got nothing on ME!' Obamas insane spending sprees means you don't eat, tough. Get a job. The shutdown isn't your problem, you are.
Posted by Seattleblues on October 9, 2013 at 1:52 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 34
Oh SB, always full of shit, aren't you?

IT'S A REPUBLICAN BUDGET, STUPID. Boehner is blocking your dream budget.

This is not about spending. Ya ass-backwards git.
Posted by Matt from Denver on October 9, 2013 at 2:06 PM · Report this
@34 She is at least consistent, never lets a fact get in her way.
Posted by Machiavelli was framed on October 9, 2013 at 2:20 PM · Report this

Actually, it's not a budget at all. What's on the table is a Continuing Resolution: i.e., a bill to keep the sequester going (at a funding level proposed by Republicans).

The Republican budget, such as it is, is the Ryan plan passed by the House in April (which would repeal the Affordable Care Act).
Posted by robotslave on October 9, 2013 at 4:35 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 37
@ 36, thanks for the clarification.
Posted by Matt from Denver on October 9, 2013 at 6:11 PM · Report this
Boring Dad is Boring 38
@32: With respect, I think you might not have a very good understanding of how government payments work.

I presume when you say 'fed' you mean the Federal Reserve ( They manage the money supply of the United States and are a quasi-independent entity.

The Department of the Treasury ( is a department of the executive branch and writes the checks for the federal government.

The Treasury issues something like 30 million payments per day, I believe. They have contingency plans in place for this kind of situation, despite what you may have heard being scaremongered on Sunday morning talk shows.

A liquidity crisis is very different from a payment delay. Lockheed Martin, for instance, may suffer a liquidity crisis on a corporate level if an anticipated multi-billion-dollar check for bombers gets delayed, but that doesn't affect the money supply or market for government securities.
Posted by Boring Dad is Boring on October 9, 2013 at 6:51 PM · Report this
@38 How do you think the bond market will react when the treasury starts picking and choosing which bills to pay? You think our borrowing costs will go up or down? If you stop paying your credit card bill and your electric bill, you think you can go to the bank, ask for a mortgage refinance and say "don't worry about all those payments I've missed; I've always paid YOU on time!"
Posted by Marooner on October 9, 2013 at 7:47 PM · Report this
Boring Dad is Boring 40
@38: Borrowing costs will go up, though I suspect not materially. Honestly, bondholders don't give a shit if your grandma is eating dog food and reusing insulin syringes 20 times, they worry about getting paid.

The people waving their arms about the world ending if we can't issue new debt are the same ones who assured you a comet would destroy life on earth when the sequester cuts hit. Barry should cut a deal and work on the midterms. In my opinion.
Posted by Boring Dad is Boring on October 9, 2013 at 8:30 PM · Report this
Boring Dad is Boring 41
Um, I answered myself. I meant @39. G e n i u s.
Posted by Boring Dad is Boring on October 9, 2013 at 9:14 PM · Report this
You don't negotiate with crazy. Period. Stand your ground, President Obama!
Posted by Patricia Kayden on October 10, 2013 at 4:30 AM · Report this

Ah, OK. So the the bits you don't understand are why we have overnight lending, how much, how often, and what instruments the Treasury transfers with the Fed, what Treasury payment delays would do to liquidity in the money markets, and what it would mean to suddenly throttle that liquidity.

In other words, you've got some understanding of Macroeconomics, but nobody has ever bothered to explain Finance to you, or why it's important.
Posted by robotslave on October 10, 2013 at 10:39 PM · Report this
ɥsɐןɯouǝʌ 44
@33: The federal government isn't providing medical care to its citizens. Rather, it is mandating that everyone get health insurance and offering insurance subsidies to those judged to need it. Ensuring that everyone is able to receive medical care when needed, resulting in lower medical costs and a healthier populace? I think that falls under the Taxing and Spending Clause: "The Congress shall have power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common defence and general Welfare of the United States"
No comeback to that, bitch.
Posted by ɥsɐןɯouǝʌ on October 10, 2013 at 10:54 PM · Report this
How do you negotiate with crazy? You throw him out of office in the next mayoral election. Oh, but you weren't talking about McGinn, were you, Goldy Shithead?
Posted by Guess Not on October 12, 2013 at 3:23 AM · Report this

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