Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bob Woodward: "The Price of Politics" and partisanship


Author: Bob Woodward

Title: “The Price of Politics

Publication: 2012, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-1-4516-5110-2, 428 pages, hardcover, 40 chapters, indexed.

Maybe it takes long memories now to recall the bitter debt ceiling debate during the summer of 2011. During that time, it appeared, at least to the casual blogger, that “Tea Party” Republican congressmen and (to a lesser extent) Senators were willing to torch the entire American economy to prove an ideological point: that taxes on profitable businesses or individuals not be raised to pay for the needs of others.  This was a job for “families.” For his part, President Obama may have added some additional fuel to the fire by some intransigent veto threats, because he rightfully didn’t want to face a debt ceiling crisis every six months.

Woodward does indeed, around p. 327, describe the potential for financial apocalypse were default to occur and not be remedied quickly.  I had covered this on my “Issues” blog in July 2011.  In the worst scenario, cash itself could have become worthless and ordinary savings could be wiped out, according to some sources in the book.  Maybe that what extremists want, a righteous (or right wing) revolution.

There was a lot of hype that summer on “entitlements”, and sometimes speakers forgot that Social Security benefits are related, substantially but not absolutely, to FICA tax contributions by former workers and their spouses.  They are essentially annuities that have been earned.  Were current beneficiaries really to be stiffed?  Yet, Woodward mentions the possibility of means testing at least for some high income (or high net worth?) persons already on some means testing (I wasn’t sure that happens now, I’ll have to check). 

The style of the book is a bit perfunctory, with lots of short paragraphs and detailed narratives of all the meetings and exchanges of the debate, including the famous Friday afternoon breakdown between Boehner and Obama.

In the last chapter, Woodward presents his views on the leadership failures of both Boehner and Obama. 
Call this book, “The Price of Partisan Politics”. 

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