Commentary: The Best Way to Guarantee Something Will Fail Is to Call It a 'Grand Bargain'

It's like clockwork -- which is good, because nothing else about the nation's budgeting process seems to work these days: If it's a late summer in the Obama era, it's time to talk about a "grand bargain" on spending that's almost certain to go nowhere.

(Linguistic aside: Perhaps it's telling that the origin of the phrase is borrowed from foreign policy. It used to be that Grand Bargains were reserved for negotiations with U.S. enemies (or at the very least delicate, multilateral trade agreements with frenemies). Now it's a term for battles between Democrats and Republicans; or rather, between the Democratic executive and Republican legislators.)

One can trace the rising and falling fortunes of the grand bargain using Google Trends

Here's the chronology to match that timeline:

May 2009: The phrase first bubbles up not in the context of spending -- this is barely 100 days into Obama's term, of course, and the Tea Party and the vogue for spending reduction are but a glimmer in Grover Norquist's eye -- but the environment. In a profile of White House budget boss Peter Orszag, Ryan Lizza reports: 

Obama’s White House is filled with former members of Congress and congressional staffers. They are legislative strategists and dealmakers, and these days they often use the phrase “grand bargain” when asked how they expect to achieve their ambitious agenda. The senior White House official told me that they were exploring an energy deal that would include a “serious” and “short-term” increase in domestic production—perhaps opening up for oil exploration places like the waters off the coast of California—that would appease the “Drill, baby, drill” crowd, while also adopting a cap-and-trade plan that could take effect one or two (or more) years after 2012, which is when Obama’s current plan would start. 

Setting a precedent for every grand bargain to come, the push for a climate deal collapses ignominiously in July after Harry Reid decides he doesn't have enough votes to pass the bill.

Read more at The Atlantic

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.