August 28, 2013

MEGAN MCARDLE: Will The Smoke From Jack Lew’s Burning Pants Obscure A Debt Ceiling Deal?

Unfortunately, as Noam Scheiber has observed, Jack Lew has a bit of history with Republicans in Congress. Before he was Treasury Secretary, he worked on the 2011 budget negotiations for the administration. The Republicans were demanding $100 billion be cut out of the budget, which the administration thought was unreasonable as we were just pulling of a recession. Jack Lew’s answer was to come up with tens of billions of cuts that looked deep, but turned out to be mostly “cuts” in money that wasn’t going to be spent anyway. Unfortunately, as soon as the Republicans signed on the dotted line, the administration trumpeted its little trick to every fiscal reporter in town. As a result, the hardliners in the Republican caucus do not trust Jack Lew.

Since no one knows exactly when Treasury is going to run out of money, there’s no way to produce an alternate set of figures that Republicans will trust. That may greatly complicate things as negotiations get down to the wire.

These people aren’t even competent liars. A competent liar doesn’t brag about how he snookered people he’ll have to deal with in the future.

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