Speaker John Boehner refuses to consider ending the Government shutdown and refuses to consider increasing the U.S. debt limit unless President Obama agrees to a "conversation" with him as depicted in the attached video.
On the other hand, President Obama refuses to "negotiate" with Boehner and the Republicans unless they pass a "clean" continuing resolution that will end the shutdown and at least a "short-term" increase in the national debt limit. So, the country is at an impasse.
It seems that President Obama learned his lessons from the 2011 negotiations with the Republicans which ended up producing the sequester that by itself is raising havoc in certain areas of the economy and has had major negative impacts in certain social services. So, now, he just refuses to negotiate.
But, apparently, President Obama is unfamiliar with the maxim that "the best defense is offense." He has let the Republicans define that the frame of reference in the discussion. In effect, the only subject of conversation is whether the president and the Democrats are ready to agree to Republican demands. But, ironically, while earlier the Republicans were demanding the defunding or delay of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), now it is not clear what it is that they are demanding.
As long as the only subject is the demands of the Republicans, the president and the Democrats cannot possibly win. The only question is how much they are going to lose.
Instead, President Obama and the Democrats should put forward a whole list of demands of their own and let the Republicans argue against them. Then, there could be a real give and take. Here are a few demands that can be put forward:
1. Introduce a single payer option for Obamacare based on the model of Medicare.
2. An increase in the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment. That is, instead of "chained CPI" which would reduce the increases in Social Security benefits, use a different formula such as "CPI-Elderly," that would more correctly reflect the increases in costs that the elderly experience.
3. The passage of a comprehensive immigration bill within a few months.
4. An increase in tax rates for the rich beyond the rates agreed when the Bush taxes expired. It should be noted that France adopted a 75% rate of taxation for millionaires last year.
5. A background check for all gun purchasers.
6. A complete ban on assault rifles and large magazines.
7. The complete elimination of the F-35 program which is currently estimated to cost $391 billion.
8. Elimination of half of almost 1,000 U.S. military bases around the world.
9. An end to all foreign aid, except in humanitarian cases such as natural disasters.
While some of these proposals are unrelated to the budget and the debt limit, the situation is not different from the Republican demands on Obamacare.
Unless he has a strong set of demands of his own, President Obama cannot possibly avoid major concessions that he will have to make to the Republicans, whether it is now or in a few months. If he has his own demands, then he can compromise by giving up or reducing some of his demands if Republicans reduce their own demands which are still undefined.