Hostage negotiation

First the clip, which I really like:

 
The cover of the January 1973 issue of National Lampoon depicted a cute dog with a gun to its head and the words "If you don't buy this magazine, we'll kill this dog" superimposed. They were widely condemned for the joke, but at least it was a joke.

For months the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives has refused to appoint any members to a conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of appropriations bills. They refused to negotiate then because they wanted to postpone it until they could shut down the government and demand concessions in return for reopening it. The shutdown is forcing cuts in Meals on Wheels, federally supported early childhood education, scientific research, and scads and scads of other things that are beneficial to lots of real people and the country as a whole.

(Yes, it no doubt also shuts down some wasteful programs as well, and I'd be all in favor of seeing waste eliminated, but that's not what's happening.)

The only reason this makes sense as a negotiating tactic is if one side cares about the hostage and the other doesn't. Even if the Tea Party types pushing this don't want to admit it, maybe not even to themselves, they're implicitly assuming that Democrats care more than they do about feeding house-bound senior citizens, teaching young kids, and making discoveries that benefit us all. Or else they believe their own ridiculous rhetoric that a modest private-enterprise-based expansion of health insurance (which nonpartisan analyses indicate will benefit the economy and reduce the deficit) is so horrible that it's better to let some old people go without food for a while in an effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

So yes, the strategy really is taking a hostage, and they need to drop it.

Obama has repeatedly -- to the great annoyance of many on the left -- compromised with Republicans. So have lots of Democrats in Congress. In fact, the Continuing Resolution passed by the Senate is exactly what Speaker Boehner demanded. It's not a compromise, it's everything he wanted. And he still won't let the House even vote on it, because he's too afraid of his party's crazy faction.

I don't know how this will play out, but it's a situation we shouldn't be in. If you think the Democrats should just capitulate on this you're nuts. You can't establish a pattern of giving in to hostage-taking without making it happen more and more often in the future.

Fund the government and raise the pointless debt ceiling so that the bills already run up by Congress can be paid. Then negotiate in good faith without any childish hostage-taking.

(Updated to correct wording of National Lampoon cover and include a link to image.)

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