Home > Congress, Domestic Policy, Economic Policy, Economy > John Boehner is a Genius

John Boehner is a Genius

Turn the clock back a year. It’s the middle of the 2012 election and I tell you that President Obama will win a second term commandingly, Republicans will hold the House and Democrats will keep the Senate. On December 31, the Bush tax cuts expire and sequestration takes effect. Soon after that, we’ll hit the debt ceiling. President Obama also campaigned on raising taxes for those with incomes over $250,000, refuses to negotiate on the debt ceiling and everyone hates sequestration. Oh, and the Republican party will swing even further to the right in the aftermath of the election with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell facing a primary challenge and Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) becoming leaders of the party. Over the next 12 months, what do you think the course of economic and tax policy will be?

Here would’ve been my guess:

  • Taxes raised for all those with incomes over $250,000
  • Capital gains and dividends taxed at a much higher rate, if not as ordinary income
  • Estate tax rises back to 40%
  • Payroll tax cut extension
  • Sequestration is rolled back with limited if any replacement cuts
  • Debt ceiling raised without a fight

Here’s where we may be at in just a couple of days:

  • Taxes raised for individuals with incomes over $400,000 and families over $450,000
  • Capital gains and dividends taxed at 20% (rising from 15%)
  • Estate tax rises back to 40%
  • No payroll tax cut extension
  • Sequestration is on the brink of becoming permanent
  • Debt ceiling is shaping up to be a major fight

That’s a lot of victories for Republicans and it’s in large part due to John Boehner. He has repeatedly out negotiated President Obama because he and his caucus seem more willing to break through the fiscal cliff, shutdown the government and default on our debt. In fact, Boehner is not willing to do any of those things more than Democrats are. He brokered a last second fiscal cliff deal that was a pretty big victory for Republicans under the circumstances (only raised taxes on individual income over $400,000). Over the current continuing resolution battle, Boehner is now hoping his caucus will give up their desperate demand to defund Obamacare and pass a clean CR. It’s looking like we could be heading for a government shutdown – the least damaging of all the potential fiscal crises, but damaging nonetheless. In the end though, this will likely be a huge victory for Republicans, even if they don’t treat it as such! Sequestration will stay in effect and while many Republicans don’t like the defense cuts, they are more than happy with the other cuts to discretionary spending. By changing the conversation to focus on defunding Obamacare, Boehner and his colleagues have made sequestration permanent. The upcoming debt ceiling battle is a place where Republicans have leverage. They know the President doesn’t want to breach it – even if he said he won’t negotiate – and Americans want there to be a negotiation. How this shapes up is anyone’s guess, but Boehner has put his caucus in an excellent shape.

Of course, not all of this is Boehner’s doing. A lot of times, he’s gone with the flow and benefited thanks to the credible threats of his right flank to do crazy things. He’s had trouble passing a farm bill and immigration reform doesn’t have a chance in the House. But nothing was going to happen no matter who was speaker. In addition, despite repeatedly promising Tea Party Republicans that they would take on Obamacare and find a way to stop it, he has convinced them to back off and move to the next battle. Most importantly, he’s done so without losing his speakership. I expect he’ll do the same with the debt ceiling since Boehner knows we can’t breach it. But it’s going to be very hard for the President not to negotiate it all. If Boehner extracts any concessions from him, it will be a monumental victory.

So while everyone is saying that John Boehner is irresponsible and has lost control, I think he’s a genius. A lot of the time, he’s going with the flow of his caucus. But he’s also used their craziness as leverage to extract meaningful concession from President Obama and Senate Democrats. At the same time, he’s avoided any fiscal disaster while keeping his speakership. I still hold out hope that he’s going to find a way around a government shutdown. He may not have an exact plan, but he has a strategy:

  1. Lie to his caucus, allow them to “take control” and make it seem as if disaster will strike
  2. Use that desperation to subtly change the conversation to the upcoming disaster and extract concessions from Democrats
  3. Go back to his caucus, say he got everything he could and convince them to vote to avoid the crisis at the last minute
  4. Keep his speakership by allowing himself to seem weak and extract some concessions
  5. Lather, rinse, repeat

It’s worked over and over again and allowed Republicans to swing policy to the right in situations where they have zero leverage. Boehner has stopped the base from causing a fiscal crisis and still kept his speakership. Call him irresponsible. Call him crazy. Call him reckless. Call him whatever you want, but John Boehner has been a brilliant speaker for the Republican Party and Democrats have underestimated him for far too long.

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  1. Casey
    September 27, 2013 at 2:49 pm | #1

    Uh, except Mitch McConnell wrote the fiscal cliff legislation that taxed incomes above $400k, not Boehner. If “looking weak” is a good strategy, then Boehner is excelling, but I’m convinced at this point nobody is really driving the ship.

  2. September 27, 2013 at 11:27 pm | #2

    Since you have given me permission to call Boehner anything I want, I think I’ll call him a drunken ASS. Why don’t you left-leaning reporters stop the drivel and report on something worthwhile?

  3. Jasper Dane
    September 29, 2013 at 8:06 am | #3

    “My name is John Boehner, and I approved this message.”

  4. September 29, 2013 at 8:19 am | #4

    It’s not difficult based on obamas performance to date to “run” circles around someone that isn’t participating in the game. Obama has shown , once and for all to the world, how ineffective and incoherent he is, and how little he understands anything.
    We have watched this “empty suit” stuck in the mire of his own mind, a liberal socialist incapable of legislating anything nor providing any rock solid decision, nor conclusion. At this point in time if it takes the shutting down of the government, you can rest assured that obo and the democrats will lose big in 2014, with the largest lost un presidential elections coming in 2016..
    We do not want the aca, we do not want Obama heading up this dysfunctional tirade of total stupidity to continue.
    His lame duck status in 2014 should be sufficient to hold this aberration of a potus in check until he leaves Washington for good. And “Good Riddance To THAT!!!

    • Richard Cox
      September 29, 2013 at 11:46 am | #5

      Jim Sedberry, You said it all. All I can add is Amen, and Amen.

    • beihai
      September 29, 2013 at 10:59 pm | #6

      uh huh, just like Obama lost in 2012. keep dreaming…
      And no, Boehner has no run rings around anyone.

  5. Andrew P
    September 29, 2013 at 8:30 am | #7

    It won’t work this time.(1) Obama has nothing to lose now, so Obama won’t give in under any circumstances. Obamacare is the entire reason for his presidency, so he can never give up on it. (2) Obama has a trump card on the Debt ceiling – he will mint the Trillion Dollar Coin – and I think the GOP knows this. Contrary to previous protestations, the Fed has no choice but to take the coin. Obama won’t do this until the CR is in the bag. But if it comes down to the coin or giving up on Obamacare, Obama will mint the coin. He has to. And the Republicans secretly expect him to.

    • Pliny the Welder
      September 29, 2013 at 4:05 pm | #8

      Are you so certain that the Democrats have nothing left to lose?

      After all we now know that the genesis of Obamacare, the sole & signature achievement of the present Administration, was nothing more than a throwaway applause line in a campaign speech. How many Democrats will throw themselves under the bus for the perpetuation of The One’s applause line as their constituents are suffering and dying from the effects of Obamacare on the US health care system?

      Similarly, the trillion dollar coin is a leftist pipe dream. The day after it is minted, likely as not, the US will be paying for its imports in gold and soon thereafter we’ll all be wiping our back sides with $100 bills as they’ll be less valuable than toilet paper (see e.g., Argentina. Repeatedly.)

      No, there is *MUCH* left to lose. Not, perhaps, for Obama who will be remembered as an utter incompetent (best case), but for his party. Eventually they’ll want to stop the bleeding.

  6. David
    September 29, 2013 at 8:46 am | #9

    keep telling yourself that as we go over the cliff….

  7. September 29, 2013 at 9:12 am | #10

    Finally someone has seen the brilliance of what Boehner has been doing. He has extractred concessions from the Democrats when he HAD NO LEVERAGE to do ANYTHING !

  8. scg
    September 29, 2013 at 10:46 am | #11

    Boehner has been great ever since the time he got hoodwinked. In 2010 he agreed to budget cuts of 38.5 billion, which was an insignificant amount, and it turned out later that the cuts were cuts that would have happened anyway.
    After that debacle, he learned not to trust the Democrats, who are not great negotiators but do happen to be skilled at dishonesty.
    Since then he’s eaten their lunch.

  9. September 29, 2013 at 10:50 am | #12

    I think Boehner and the Republican Party have the upper hand here because Obama has shown himself to be a non-leader with no real convictions, blowing with the wind, mostly the Islamic wind, saying stuff over and over that fewer and fewer Americans are believing. So I think Boehner is in a very strong position if he uses it wisely. He can stop Obama from destroying this country economically — and I’m sure he knows how to do that.

  10. Sylvia Ashby
    September 29, 2013 at 10:56 am | #13

    I would advise Boehner to completely fund Obamacare and allow no carve-outs, waivers, or special treatment for anyone or any group. Leave the medical device tax as is. Do it for a year. If it works, great, if there are problems, try to fix them and if it flops completely, replace. A year is long enough to find out what’s in it, to quote NP.

  11. September 29, 2013 at 11:24 am | #14

    The public may finally be seeing that it is the Dems who need the Dependent votes. They need Care to keep mandates over the sheep they so want to maneuver. They need taxes such as the Med. Dev. tax. They need control over the media. They need to divert from scandals which they initiated. They need to recruit youth, minorities , illegals, felons to prop up their BASE, not the Pubs. They, the liberal Dems have inane policies on energy, borders, regs. on business, farms and industries, not the Pubs The Speaker and the TEAS and the Libertarians and the Conserv Pubs finally have found their voice to oppose the tyranny of the Putin on the Potomac and his progressive ilk. And at age 75, I am glad to see it before the Lord takes me home!!

  12. September 29, 2013 at 12:58 pm | #15

    I have two words for you…Plan B.

  13. Kathleen
    September 29, 2013 at 2:41 pm | #16

    Conservatives want Boehner to run the country from the House while the Dems have the Senate and the White house. Can’t be done. Boehner has done a great job with the hand he has been dealt. .

  14. September 29, 2013 at 3:05 pm | #17

    If the Government shuts down how will the criminals in the IRS jack boot the TEA PARTY?. Who’s going to spy on us ? How will Al Qaeda get its weapons in Syria.? Will the EPA Swat Teams still conduct raids on defenseless miners.? Who is going to sue The States following the Constitution? Will Bo still have access to a V-22 Osprey? WHO IS GOING TO INDOCTRINATE OUR CHILDREN?? You know what ? Lets just shut it down…Tom Harkin is right we are very close to a second Civil War..

  15. beihai
    September 29, 2013 at 11:14 pm | #18

    The author left out a lot of things Obama got in the fiscal cliff negotiations, Obama got the Republicans to renew the current, relatively generous, duration of unemployment benefits for a year, along with some low- and middle-income tax credits. Being that I am middle income this meant the world to me and my family far more than the additional 100 billion over 10 years that would have been raised from a full reversion to Bush tax rates.
    As to the sequester, Democrats have been fighting for years to cut defense…now granted that cuttng defense with an axe instead of a scapel is foolish and irresponsible we could blame Republicans for that. And as the sequester continues on defense contractors will be screaming bloody murder giving Democrats leverage to reduce the cuts in domestic spending. Finally, the sequester is not permanent. If the Democrats get the House back in 2016 they will be gone. Even in the worst case scenerio they will be gone entirely by the 2022 midterms, which will be the beginning of a generational Democratic majority in the House. Need I remind anyone that the Bush tax cuts, that Republicans forever tried to make permanent, are gone forever.
    There is a Democratic demographic tide coming in, no matter how big the sand castle Boehner builds, or how hard he tosses the water back with his little bucket, he is going to be washed away.

  16. Johnny V
    September 30, 2013 at 12:39 am | #19

    What a bunch of Republican Establishment horse do-do… Boehner couldn’t negotiate his way out of a wet paper bag… I know Danny is being ‘tongue in cheek’ here… but, isn’t there a better way.. to call Johnny Boehner out??? How about, just exposing him for what he is… a worthless hack for the Corporatist Republicans… and the Establishment… So, a Ted Cruz has the cajones to stand up for 21 hours and speak the unadulterated truth… but Danny, here has to do it in satire… good try Danny… just speak the truth

  17. Sean from Marin
    September 30, 2013 at 10:11 am | #20

    Did you marry into the family or something? It seems that you and his immediate family are the only people who think he’s in charge of anything. The guy is being lead around by the nose by a caucus completely broken in two. This will not be solved anytime soon with him in charge.

  18. Jo Martin
    September 30, 2013 at 2:24 pm | #21

    I won’t share this on facebook — we don’t want it to get out the democrats are underestimating Mr. Boehner — let’s keep it a secret for a little while longer!

  1. September 27, 2013 at 10:56 am | #1
  2. September 27, 2013 at 11:00 am | #2
  3. September 27, 2013 at 11:37 am | #3
  4. September 27, 2013 at 11:41 am | #4
  5. September 27, 2013 at 11:43 am | #5
  6. September 27, 2013 at 5:39 pm | #6
  7. September 30, 2013 at 5:45 am | #7
  8. September 30, 2013 at 3:15 pm | #8
  9. October 4, 2013 at 1:41 pm | #9
  10. October 4, 2013 at 2:06 pm | #10
  11. October 4, 2013 at 11:13 pm | #11
  12. October 7, 2013 at 12:54 pm | #12
  13. October 9, 2013 at 4:30 pm | #13

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