"Polls showed that American voters generally endorsed a mix of spending cuts and tax increases. And plenty of neutral observers thought that the approach of the debt ceiling expiration would help forge a grand bargain."


"House Speaker John Boehner was willing to entertain the possibility of several hundred billion dollars of increased revenues, until he realized he couldn't sell it to his own caucus. The anti-tax radicalism of the Congressional GOP took revenues off the table and made a large deal impossible. The result was a lengthy manufactured crisis and a small deal that relied solely on spending cuts, and even that was opposed by a big chunk of the House GOP caucus."

This is the standard Democrat line.  Polls show this, polls show that.  History shows that tax increases are not conducive to remaining in elected office.  Time Magazine and the New York Times may walk around the country asking random people if they think Warren Buffet and corporate jet owners should pay more taxes but politicians in both parties know that if they vote for tax increases this close to an election, they are going to have trouble staying in office.  No tax increase passed the Senate.  Gross wants to blame "Tea Party Republicans" for this because it's fashionable to do so but it was Harry Reid himself who took tax increases off the table - and still couldn't get his own party to pass his bill.

For that matter, Republicans voted for a much larger deficit reform bill that included closing tax loopholes, cutting the deficit seriously and avoiding the dreaded downgrade.  Guess where that bill died.  Here's a hint:  all the evil "Tea Party Republicans" supported it.  It was Democrats who demagogued Paul Ryan's bill as Armageddon for old people and it was Harry Reid (him again) and the Democrats who killed it.  Democrats know they are in trouble in 2012 so they've decided to sit back and let Republicans go on the record - voting even their own president's budget down 97-0 in the Senate.  Democrats will argue that Republicans are not supporting "realistic" policy which can be translated to mean "policy that will not please the left wing base of the Democratic Party."  It's not realistic because Democrats won't vote for it.

Gross is correct, the debt ceiling issue was deliberately raised by Republcians.  They could have simply rubber stamped an increase but they knew it was a fight they could win politically.  They also knew it was a fight that would draw attention to their cause ideologically - that cause being a reduction in the size and scope of government.  They were right on both counts.  If Democrats were serious about reducing the deficit, they would surely have voted for something by now.  Their idea - until the Tea Party came along - was to increase spending, increase the deficit and increase the size of government.  The outcome of the debt ceiling debate was clearly insufficient but it was far superior to the nothing Democrats wanted.

The last point not raised by Gross in this article but certainly raised by Democras is the how we got here discussion.  Even serious news sources say silly things like Obama "inherited" the bad economy.  Translation:  it's Bush's fault.  This is also false.  Obama did walk into a difficult economy but he certainly played a large role in and received a lot of money from some of the primary institutions at the center of the crisis.  The roots of the 2008 collapse go back much further than even the Bush years and would take much more than a blog entry to explain.  If you're interested, read Reckless Endangerment.  It's as thorough and honest an investigation into what led to 08 as you'll find.

Here's another stock Democratic argument:  "We have to pay for Bush's two wars."  Fair enough.  So let's consider our ROI (business speak for return on investment) for just a moment.  The two wars have yielded the following results:  a stable democratic ally in Iraq, a dead Saddam Hussein, a drastically scattered and reduced Al Quaeda, a dead Osama Bin Laden.  Both presidents deserve credit for these results but there can be no serious argument that our military investments have failed to yield the desired outcomes.

Now let's consider the primary domestic and economic policies of the last two presidents:  TARP, three stimulus packages (yes, three), Dodd/Frank, Obamacare.  The results:  9.2 percent unemployment, anemic economic growth, one recession and perhaps a second one on the way, and a downgrade of the US credit rating.  This is an abject failure.  I think it's safe to say that if the Navy Seals were not employed by President Obama, he would have no successes to speak of.

More conventional wisdom says that gridlock is to blame for Washington's failure.  This is also false.  Observers who say this fail to notice that there was plenty of political uniformity of Repulicans during the early Bush years and unprecedented uniformity of Democrats during Obama's first two years.  Washington is not failing.  Rather, the American people are engaged in a very serious and so far undecided struggle over the size and scope of government. 

This is how republican government works:  slow, deliberate, messy and sluggish.  It's supposed to be that way because as I've repeated over and over again on this site:  efficient government is tyranny.  China, Europe, business types and the rest can hem and haw about American inefficiency but ask any of them where they'd be without Washington politics.  The American people have faced much greater challenges than a downgrade from the S&P throughout our history.  The Articles of Confederation (talk about weak government), slavery, a Civil War, the Nazis, the 60's...  Our system is uniquely qualified to pull us through this mess and one way or another, it will do so yet again.  First, we have to figure out where we want to go.  We are not yet certain of the destination but if the debt ceiling debate taught us anything, it is this:  Barack Obama is not going to take us there.