The Mystery of Obama

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What happens if Republicans win control of one or both houses of Congress in November? Ezra Klein says he’ll put money on a bigger tax cut getting passed but thinks the odds of big deficit reduction are tiny. Matt Yglesias thinks the odds of a big deficit reduction are even tinier, since Republicans don’t actually care about deficit reduction.

And me? I don’t know, because I don’t really feel like I understand President Obama’s position in all this. It’s pretty obvious what House Republicans will do: extend all the Bush tax cuts and possibly try to make a few modest cuts in spending. It’s less obvious what the Senate will do, but even if Democrats retain control there are going to be several members of their caucus willing to compromise on the kind of program House Republicans want to pass. So that means big tax cuts and small spending cuts, and therefore an increase in the deficit.

But what about Obama? Would he veto such a program and risk shutting down the government? Or is he still dedicated to looking postpartisan? Will he become a born-again deficit fighter after the elections? That’s the wild card, and I honestly have no idea where he stands on this. To make it even worse, he’s going through a lot of staff changes, and there’s no telling what kind of advice he’ll be getting compared to the past couple of years.

So Obama is the central mystery here, I think. If I could figure out what he’s going to do, I’d be a lot more willing to make a prediction. But I can’t.

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