The Power of Surrender!

Get to “Yes,” and make it snappy! In the debt ceiling debate of last year, Obama would have been wise to find a way to accede to GOP demands for a deal that was all cuts and no tax increases. He would have stolen the issue (leaner government) from the opposition at an acceptable price.  Instead he held out for something unpopular he couldn’t get (tax increases) and looked impotent, ultimately agreeing to a deal without revenue increases in any case. Now the situation is reversed. As the Wall Street Journal reports:
President Barack Obama heads into 2012 with a legislative agenda that essentially consists of just a single item—a long-term extension of a payroll tax holiday—deferring a fight over deficit reduction and the Bush-era tax cuts and all but giving up on the remaining components of his jobs bill as he pivots to an election-year strategy of attacking Congress. [E.A.]
The payroll tax cut is a) popular and b) arguably still necessary given the sluggish economy. Republicans, formerly the party of tax cuts, already resisted it once and lost. If they are smart, they’ll figure out a way to quickly accede to Obama’s request, no?  Then, instead of one legislative item, Obama will have zero items. Nothing concrete to fight about and for the press to write stories about. Let Obama run around the country, after getting what he asked for, talking about the things the recalcitrant Congress might pass to create jobs if he hadn’t already given up on passing anything else. … P.S.: The payroll tax cut dispute is likely to focus on the funding mechanism. Democrats will propose a tax increase on the rich. But surely the GOPs can come up with some relatively popular alternative source of money–means-testing Medicare and Social Security come to mind.   In any case, the press’ story would become a fight over  funding and tax increases, not Republican opposition to the payroll tax cut. … P.P.S.: The trick when surrendering, of course, is to do it quickly! Obama would like the dispute to drag on for months because he thinks it’s a winner for him. …