Obama's Pre-Christmas Pivot To The Lesser Bargain  

A blog about business and economics.
Dec. 22 2012 10:56 AM

Obama's Pre-Christmas Pivot To The Lesser Bargain Is Great News For America

The general impression in the media is that there was "no news" in the statement President Obama made in the late afternoon yesterday. In one sense that's true. But on another level, the statement reflected a substantial change in White House strategy for the better.

That's because as I outlined on December 10 there have always been two different ways of averting the economic problems associated with the fiscal cliff. One—which I'll call the "lesser bargain"—is an effort to reach a de minimis agreement that avoids middle class tax increases and minimizes short-term spending cuts while reducing the long-term budget deficit relative to the current policy baseline. The other is the quest for a true "grand bargain." A deal that attempts to "fix the debt" by doing more tax hikes and more long-term spending cuts and then perhaps tries to reduce the perverse economic impact by adding on short-term stimulus.

The quest for the lesser bargain is important because achieving it will improve the short-term economic picture. The grand bargain, by contrast, is impossible and pointless and its relentless pursuit is positively harmful since it generates these damaging crises.


Yesterday afternoon Obama hardly came around to my big-picture objections to grand bargaineering. But he seemed to have reached the conclusion that he wasn't interested in offering any more concessions than have already been offered, so it's time to pivot from the grand bargain in the short-term and work on a lesser bargain instead. Officially Obama's idea is that we try to do the lesser bargain now, and then that gives us plenty of time to keep working toward the grand bargain. That'd be a mistake. What Obama ought to do is try to reach a lesser bargain as soon as possible and then shift to addressing almost any other problem under the sun. But however it ends up, it was a step in the right direction.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.



Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Votes to Remain in U.K.

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

Can Democrats Keep Counting on Republicans to Offend Women as a Campaign Strategy?


Sometimes Women Do Make Fake Rape Allegations

And we need to treat that as a serious problem.


The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.