The PJ Tatler

Negotiating with Yourself Doesn’t Work

We are into Week Three of the 17% federal government slowdown.  (If 83% of the nearly $4-trillion-a-year Leviathan is still open, it isn’t a shutdown.)

There is so little (to no) damage done by this, President Barack Obama has been creating as much artificial pain as possible.  Often illegally – and routinely absurdly.  His ridiculous attempted closures of open-air monuments and open oceans have cost the National Park Service $76 million a day – in addition to being capricious and obnoxious.

Before we even got to to the slowdown, House Republicans passed a bill funding every nook and cranny of the gi-normous government save for the incredibly effective and popular ObamaCare – the Democrats wouldn’t budge.

On both the slowdown and the debt ceiling, the President has throughout flatly stated “I will not negotiate.

If the guys and gals on the other side of the aisle won’t sit down at the other side of the negotiating table – that’s their failing, not yours.  Negotiation isn’t a one-way street.  Republicans – having no one else with whom to negotiate – have for weeks been one-way-street negotiating with themselves.

They want to repeal ObamaCare, but they backed off that position and started with an attempt to defund it.  The Democrats wouldn’t budge.

So Republicans self-negotiated away from that to a one year delay of the individual mandate.  In other words, a legal ObamaCare change – similar to the 1,200 or so the President has unilaterally, illegally imposed.  The Democrats wouldn’t budge.

So the Republicans self-negotiated away to (in at least one proposal) a repeal of the medical device tax.  For that the Democrats finally budged – further away from the Republicans, to a demand for even bigger government.

Insisting we get rid of the tiny sequester cuts as a part of any deal.  Because after President Obama increased spending by $900 billion, cutting $84 billion has been just too excruciating.

This isn’t negotiation – this is obstinate Donkey politics, with a Lucy-and-the-football chaser.  This is what you get when one side doesn’t move an inch – while watching the other repeatedly retreat.  Eventually, standing pat starts to look like not enough – and they demand even more.

The lesson from all of this is – don’t negotiate with yourself.

We have had since the Franklin Delano Roosevelt New Deal an absurd federal tariffs-and-subsidies farm policy.  Which has over the decades grew into an intransigent, nightmare mess.

All the while, the farm market became global.  So our dumb domestic policy begat a protectionism-on-steroids all-around-the-world anti-free trade nightmare mess.  With countries matching us and each other tariff-for-tariff, subsidy-for-subsidy.

Meanwhile, too many of us Less Government types here at home have adhered to the same unilateral let’s-get-rid-of-ours approach.  In other words – negotiating with ourselves.  We’ve had five such votes just since June 2012 – the last just this past Saturday.  All have failed.

Killing just our farm programs made much more sense when it was just us eating what we grew.  That has long since stopped being the case.  Now, if we just kill our programs, the uber-subsidized global market will kill our farms and jack up our prices.

The European Union (EU) with sugar tried such self-negotiation.  It didn’t end well.

(T)he European Union (EU), which supplied as much as 20 percent of global (sugar) exports in the 1990s, shifted from a net exporter to a net importer following sugar policy reforms in 2005.

Their reforms? Unilateral tear-down of their trade barriers – which sounds good. Except it allowed Big Sugar Subsidy Brazil to flood their market – and wipe out nearly all domestic production. And now the EU is paying about 25% more for sugar.

The solution involves an entity I would like to see 90% closed – with the remaining 10% left for situations such as this.  The World Trade Organization (WTO).

The world’s sugar-producing nations need to sit down together, each with a copy of everyone else’s lists of protectionist sugar policies. And start horse trading.

“Brazil – how about if you get rid of this subsidy, we’ll each get rid of one.”

“Mexico – if you get rid of this tariff, we’ll each get rid of one.” 

Let the subsequent discussions ensue. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Working together to tear down trade impediments makes a whole lot more sense than working unilaterally to continue building them.

And much more sense than negotiating with ourselves.  Again.

It appears the House Republicans have learned this lesson on farm policy.  Here’s hoping they start applying that knowledge to the budget and debt ceiling debates.