A Brief History Of “Compromise”

The new budget “compromise” now can join the list of historically memorable and grand compromises: Custer’s compromise at the Battle of Little Big Horn, the Japanese – American compromise at Hiroshima, and perhaps the great compromise of all, the one that finally settled the bitter rivalry between Bambi and Godzilla.

Party leaders and pundits can refer to the budget deal that averts a debt default as a compromise to their little hackneyed heart’s desire; but even the loosest definition of the word does not make that definition accurate. In even the most imbalanced arrangements correctly classified as compromise, both sides will sacrifice something. Republicans have given up absolutely zero in this newly christened “compromise” and achieved the only substantive goal they had. Well, to be entirely factual, Republicans did at last give up the gun they were holding to the head of the nation’s and the world’s economy once the ransom was paid. Indeed the metaphor of hostage-taking for ransom used so often to describe these “negotiations” can go into the record books now as a fact of history.

The current administration’s record of compromise is not one likely to be emulated by future politicians, tycoons, diplomats or grammar school playground artists of the deal.

On the first major deal of this administration Republicans essentially forced the administration and Democrats to make a highly unfavorable compromise with themselves. With the nation in desperate need of a major stimulus infusion to prime the economy’s pump, Republicans successfully pressured conservative Democrats so fiercely that they caved liked the Carlsbad Caverns.  So even with Democrats in control of both houses of the federal legislature and the executive branch, the final result was a seriously watered-down stimulus bill, and one which in the end ill-served our economic needs.

The same conservative Democrats who harried and hampered the Clinton administration and his Democratic majority in Congress when it came to passing the highly successful budget deal of 1993, and in collapsing the Clinton administration’s valiant attempt at health reform folded even before the battle had started for health reform this round. They practically could be witnessed fleeing the battlefield once the Tea Bagger squadrons of three-cornered hat-wearing septuagenarians showed up.

Obama surrendered early and often, and the final deal was better than nothing; or maybe a little better than that, but still did not address the murderous conspirators at the core of exaggerated health care costs: the reaming of the system by profit-intoxicated private insurers and the system-gaming health providers. In fairness one can only say Republicans, controlling neither congress nor the executive branch, may be crowned unanimous heavyweight champions of the deal for that one. Judging from the level of skillfulness our side showed in the bout, no, we couldn’t have been a contender.

This year about all anyone on the left side of the aisle even asked for was the expiration of the deficit-busting and rankly unfair Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans during the budget negotiations earlier in the year. Well, C’est la vie to that one too. Republicans threatened to shut the government down and Obama coughed a two year extension of the cuts up.

So now we have the Great Default Compromise, which asks nothing in revenue of coddled corporations and wealthy Americans in reducing the budget deficit, and asks for sizeable cuts in programs principally affecting the middle-class, and working and poor Americans. It’s another giant step for Grover-kind, the anti-tax and anti-government fanatics helmed by Grover Norquist and his like-minded Republican Party.

The goal is, as always of course: return the nation to a fantasy throwback to the 18th century; solidify it as an outlier among modern democratic nations; repeal as much modern progress as possible; rig the system for wealth, finance and the interests of big business to the point of invincibility; keep the lowly wage earner well down in his place; and transform the country into the conservative paradise, the familiar Latin American feudal state of subservient working peons, and wealthy, self-perceived Ayn Rand ubermensches. Home ownership may never be attainable, nor access to affordable healthcare, while the nation sinks to the status of also ran. Still, you can comfort yourself knowing we are living the dream of pure, icy, unforgiving Austrian School economics, and its perversely twisted rendition of capitalism.

As a pretty pragmatic Democrat and liberal, I never demand a Democratic president achieve a litmus test of goals.  Like many, I keep hoping that one day the thirty year march of radical conservative policies finally will be reversed. But with all contemporaneous political factors taken into account, I consider the basic, and minimal job requirement for a Democratic president being to prevent the loss of ground. It’s difficult to grade the current administration favorably in meeting such a marker.

Let’s put it this way: in the next political game of strip poker, if you’re a Democrat, I hope you’ll be wearing your clean underwear.

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