NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

March 2, 2013

Who will blink in the game of D.C. chicken?

Bill Plante
Newburyport Daily News

---- — Big Freddy was tapping his fingers against his newspaper when I joined him, and I asked what was up.

“The blame game over the fallout of spending cuts,” Freddy said.

“It looks to me more like what we used to call a Mexican standoff of two guys with knives at each other’s throats,” I said.

“More complicated than that,” Freddy said. “ This isn’t just about the two parties going head to head. This is also about Obama’s presidency. He needs the House back so he can make the most of it, and he needs the Democrats to take it back two years from now.”

“But the cuts in the federal budget are a drop in the bucket,” I said.

“Just over 2 percent, but they’re cuts,” Freddy said. “Cutting federal jobs is something new. Haven’t for years. Spending is what we know. Doesn’t matter which party’s in power. Spending creates jobs. Cuts means losing jobs. Doesn’t matter that most of them are federal jobs. Jobs are jobs, and we’ve got twice the number Bill Clinton had when he left office.”

“And we’ve got debt up the bazoo,” I said.

“Which you and I won’t have to live with because we’ll be long gone, while our great grandchildren will be paying it off.” Freddy said. “But this has been more about the Congressional elections two years down the road and Obama’s presidency than it has about anything else. Furthermore, compared to our national debt, the cuts are chicken feed.”

“But there was no end to spending in sight,” I said.

“Well, there is now, and the blame game is what this has been all about for both parties,” Freddy said.

“Republicans want cuts. Democrats don’t. Republicans are going to get their cuts. The question is who’s going to do the bleeding. Who’s not? There’s more than one answer to that. It’s in the eyes of the beholders on the left and right, and most just have their fingers crossed.”

“Because we’re in uncharted political territory,” I said.

“Correct,” Freddy said. “It could be a turning point, but we haven’t a clue where that might lead. What we do know is there’s no way this debt thing is going to go away overnight, what’s going to have to be cut over the long haul, or which party’s going to take the biggest hit.”

“Probably doom and gloom enough to go around,” I said.

“Not necessarily so,” Freddy said. “No question the two parties have been at each other’s throats, and the Democrats have the Republicans on their backs. But it’s the party in power and what it has to do to stay there that’s at risk. Both parties have had their ups and downs, but long term in our lifetimes, Democrats have had the edge. When they’ve lost it, it’s been because they’ve reached too far.”

“That’s what the far right is building their case on,” I said.

“But it’s a rough sell,” Freddy said. “Democrats won going away last November. Obama’s riding that wave, and we won’t really know how far that’s going until the reaction to the cuts ahead sets in. One thing’s for sure. It’s going to be either make or break for both parties, so stay tuned.

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Bill Plante is a staff columnist.