Mike Kueber's Blog

December 4, 2012

Sunday Book Review #91 – The Price of Politics by Bob Woodward

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 3:05 pm
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Talk about déjà vu.  While reading The Price of Politics, I couldn’t help but think about the Fiscal Cliff negotiations currently going on in Washington.  Today’s headline in the NY Times reads, “Boehner Counters Obama’s Proposal on Deficit Reduction,” and at the heart of The Price of Politics are similar interminable negotiations between Boehner and Obama in the summer of 2011 over the Debt Ceiling.  

As I started reading The Price of Politics, I felt exhilarated by the behind-the-scenes reports which figuratively allowed me to be a fly on the wall.  But as the process dragged on, I began to share what the participants called “negotiations fatigue.”  Even worse, I became severely frustrated by the refusal of either party to compromise (Republicans – no new taxes; Democrats – no reform of entitlements).  By the time I was two-thirds through the book, I wanted to be put out of my misery.

Ironically, one of the critical items to resolve the 2011 negotiations is the $1.2 trillion sequestration that would be assessed against both parties’ sacred cows (Republicans – defense; Democrats – Medicare) if a to-be-named Super Committee was unable to agree on cuts before January 1, 2013.  Not surprisingly, the Super Committee failed to agree on cuts and now a major part of the Fiscal Cliff is the triggering of sequestration in a few weeks.  Thus, it is fair to say that the Super Committee and sequestration were actually just another act of kicking the can down the road.

As a fiscal conservative, I support the Republican position that the entitlement programs – Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – need to be fundamentally reformed now.  The Democrats argue that this reform is unfair (a) because the beneficiaries of these programs are least able to absorb financial shocks, and (b) because the fiscal nightmare could be ameliorated if the rich were required to contribute more. 

Now that the Republicans have finally agreed to tax the rich more, the Democrats are left with only a single defense – i.e., the defenseless elderly and poor need to be protected.  My response to that argument is that if Americans want the safety net to remain at current levels, then taxes need to be raised to pay for it.  That is the glory of a Balanced Budget amendment – we get the level of government we are willing to pay for. 

I believe the Democrats know that voters are not willing to pay for the benefits that they insist on retaining.  Let’s put it to a vote.

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3 Comments »

  1. hmmm, i’d like to see a shift (not a reduction) in social spending that starts reducing the problem (instead of feeding and housing it). We need to retool a lot of our population from being thing makers to other tasks like being lab technicians, data gatherers, installers (we are on the verge of equiping homes with solar panels, new electronic monitors, new flooring and window materials, etc.). I think our cut opportunities are in defense. I DO NOT WANT TO SACRIFICE OUR CURRENT OR FUTURE DEFENSE but we spend more than the rest of the world combined. Surely we can maintain an uncompromising defense without that much spending…

    q

    Comment by Q — December 4, 2012 @ 3:43 pm | Reply

    • I agree that our defense spending is incredibly excessive. Although it is cliche, I think a reduced budget will force us to spend smarter.

      Comment by Mike Kueber — December 4, 2012 @ 7:51 pm | Reply

  2. oh, and people that work for a living expect more accountabilty and responsibility from their elected reps!

    Comment by Q — December 4, 2012 @ 3:45 pm | Reply


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