Category Archives: bargaining

Restoring Trust

When you listen to Republicans being interviewed on any news show they always remind us that all our woes are Obama’s fault. Their newest litany is that Obama does not lead and that we need a President who will lead. I guess they are calling President Obama a wimp. To my mind, Obama’s behavior just proves how very smart he is.

The Republicans spent Obama’s whole first term signaling that he could not count on them in any way to help with any of his agenda; not health care, not finances, not anything. Obama got schooled. He’s a quick study. He tried to be bipartisan. He agreed to a Grand Bargain that would have angered many in his own party and yet he was jilted.  The Speaker of the House could not close the deal (a good deal) with the extreme Republicans in the House.

So here we are now with Republicans still trying to “pin the tail on the donkey” and Obama understandably leery about engaging in hand-to-hand combat. But Obama understands how to play a long game and that does make him a leader.

Republicans only have one item on their agenda and they tell us over and over how important it is. They chant “spending cuts” – “spending cuts” – “spending cuts”. Their rhetoric suggests fairly limited vocabularies. They also chant one variation on the theme, “cut entitlements” – “cut entitlements – “cut entitlements. They sound like a bunch of Romans at the gladiator pits. And the truth is no one has said that there will be no cuts. There have been some and I am sure there will be more. However, once you’ve made it clear that you are the party that does not bargain in good faith, don’t act surprised if no one will sit down with you.

Sometimes, in recent weeks you rephrase the entitlements chant by saying that “you want to make entitlements more secure” but the ideas that you have for doing this are almost exactly what they were when you were insisting these programs be cut. Do you understand at all why talk of cuts to our social programs might upset us? What if your health insurance, or retirement, or both were on the line? Retired politicians cost us larger amounts per capita than other retirees.

Perhaps the deadlock which has prevented us from responding to our financial dilemmas with any “big” approach offered by either side of the political spectrum has actually kept us steering a slow, but steady course that will eventually bring us out of the doldrums.

I’m not sure how Republicans could find a way to restore the President’s trust in their sincerity. If Republicans really want, as they now aver, cuts to social programs that will strengthen these programs for the future and tax reforms that will also strengthen the American economy then it sounds as if the Republicans and Obama and the Democrats are all on the same page, but I bet they still are not. I also bet that Republicans still believe that Americans are being “institutionalized” and will soon comprise a helpless class which cannot exercise any initiative and who have a parasitic relationship to our government that will eventually bring it down. We all do know people who may be parasites so we find ourselves shaking our heads in agreement, but our government also cares for groups with real needs; groups like children, the disabled, the elderly. If you can’t find a way to separate the parasites form those who genuinely need or deserve social programs then we hurt our society by taking an ax to all of it and letting all groups sink or swim on their own. Yikes! This does not have any hint of compassion or enlightenment about it. This just sounds greedy, short-sighted and inhumane. If Republicans can back off from this extreme position which has them insisting that we get rid of all social programs but that we keep a huge defense budget; if they can convince Democrats that they can be trusted to bargain in good faith, then I believe we could see some real progress on reform. However, I’m not sure I know how trust could ever be restored.

The Keystone

I sincerely wish that going forward we didn’t need to use fossil fuels ever again but that is not the case. We aren’t done with coal, gas, or oil quite yet. It is also essential that we keep trying to set America free from reliance on foreign energy resources, especially oil, because needing to keep other countries happy to insure our oil supply gives them leverage and it gives these same countries potential power to control our response to world events. Also, it is possible that we can use the pipeline as a bargaining chip to help keep the Republicans from insisting on cuts to “entitlements” before they will allow tax rates to go up.

We must accept, however, that we are walking a dangerous line between environmental catastrophes and our energy needs and this dilemma is becoming more and more obvious. Most of us accept that the climate changes we are seeing like the melting ice caps and the rising sea levels and the severe storms can be linked to burning fossil fuels and the levels of CO2emissions produced by that chemical process. Using combustion to produce mechanical energy will not work well for us for much longer unless we create domes to live under and move well away from coastlines.


Unfortunately we don’t have a great new source of energy waiting in the wings that will provide enough power to meet our energy needs. We have our little collection of problematic alternative energy sources:  solar, wind, nuclear, maybe some thermal – each with pluses and minuses. Right now there are more minuses than pluses.

This is why I say we should go ahead with the Keystone Pipeline. I am not really in favor of the pipeline, but I believe they have agreed to change the route so that it doesn’t cut across Nebraska’s fresh water aquifer. It’s practically a done deal and a pipeline is not as bad a risk for our fresh water as drilling offshore or fracturing shale. Sad to say, unless something comes along, we will probably end up doing those also, but let’s wait until we’re desperate. Let’s also keep pushing for the toughest rules we can possibly get to force the energy industry to protect our fresh water (and even our oceans) and to keep CO2 emissions as low as possible.