By President Obama’s Own Standard, This Is a Bad Compromise

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Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

It's often said that a good compromise is one in which neither side is happy. By such a measure, the debt-ceiling agreement reached by President Obama and GOP congressional leaders, while clearly friendlier to the right than to the left, has to be considered a pretty great compromise.

Each side has its own complaints about the deal.

On the left:

Lacks any tax revenues: Arizona congressman Raul Grijalva, the co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, says, "This deal does not even attempt to strike a balance between more cuts for the working people of America and a fairer contribution from millionaires and corporations. The very wealthy will continue to receive taxpayer handouts, and corporations will keep their expensive federal giveaways."

Does nothing for jobs and hurts the economy: Paul Krugman says the deal will "damage an already depressed economy," while Robert Reich claims it "hobbles the capacity of the government to respond to the jobs and growth crisis."

Validates the GOP's brinksmanship strategy: A New York Times editorial laments that "this episode demonstrates the effectiveness of extortion. Reasonable people are forced to give in to those willing to endanger the national interest."

Can't eat it: Democratic congressman Emanuel Cleaver of Illinois Missouri tweeted, "This deal is a sugar-coated satan sandwich. If you lift the bun, you will not like what you see."

On the right:

Taxes could still increase at a later date: Red State blogger Erick Erickson predicts that "the super committee is going to raise taxes ... in a big way" and says the right will be "lucky" if the legislation is voted down.

The size of the debt-reduction is too small: South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham insists that America is "no longer running toward oblivion," but merely "walking toward it."

The defense cuts are too big: Former UN Ambassador John Bolton says the deal "potentially points a dagger at the heart of our national security."

So maybe the debt-reduction deal meets the popular definition of a "good compromise." But President Obama has his own view of what makes a good compromise, one that he outlined as a senate candidate in a 2004 New Yorker story:


“A good compromise, a good piece of legislation, is like a good sentence.” He nodded. Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue” was playing in the background. “Or a good piece of music,” he said. “Everybody can recognize it. They say, ‘Huh. It works. It makes sense.’ That doesn’t happen too often, of course, but it happens.”

Well, it definitely isn't happening right now.