|By PAUL KRUGMAN|
To make sense of what just happened, we need to ask what is really at stake, and how much difference the budget deal makes in the larger picture.
So, what are the two sides really fighting about? Surely the answer is, the future of the welfare state. Progressives want to maintain the achievements of the New Deal and the Great Society, and also implement and improve Obamacare so that we become a normal advanced country that guarantees essential health care to all its citizens. The right wants to roll the clock back to 1930, if not to the 19th century.
There are two ways progressives can lose this fight. One is direct defeat on the question of social insurance, with
The good news for progressives is that danger #1 has been averted, at least so far — and not without a lot of anxiety first. Romney lost, so nothing like the Ryan plan is on the table until President Santorum takes office, or something. Meanwhile, in 2011 Obama was willing to raise the
The bad news is that the deal falls short on making up for the revenue lost due to the Bush tax cuts. Here, though, it's important to put the numbers in perspective. Obama wasn't going to let all the Bush tax cuts go away in any case; only the high-end cuts were on the table. Getting all of those ended would have yielded something like
Well, the CBO estimates cumulative potential GDP over the next decade at
And on the principle of the thing, you could say that Democrats held their ground on the essentials — no cuts in benefits — while Republicans have just voted for a tax increase for the first time in decades.
So why the bad taste in progressives' mouths? It has less to do with where Obama ended up than with how he got there. He kept drawing lines in the sand, then erasing them and retreating to a new position. And his evident desire to have a deal before hitting the essentially innocuous fiscal cliff bodes very badly for the confrontation looming in a few weeks over the debt ceiling.
If Obama stands his ground in that confrontation, this deal won't look bad in retrospect. If he doesn't, yesterday will be seen as the day he began throwing away his presidency and the hopes of everyone who supported him.
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|Source:||New York Times Digital|