Thursday, September 26, 2013

Learning To Negotiate in Good Faith

I grew up in a Reform Jewish house and while we didn't go to Temple each week, we did have a Passover Seder each year. Various foods are used symbolically during the Seder and of course the most well-known is matzo. A piece of matzo known as the Afikoman is set aside during the seder before the main meal is eaten to be used for the latter part after the meal. One tradition is that children steal the Afikoman and get a reward for its return. I don't know why Jewish parents are supposed to teach their children to steal things and sell them back to the original owner, but as we practiced this I sold it back to my dad for a few dollars, something like allowance money.

I remember one year I learned that the Afikoman is required for the post-meal part of the seder. To me this meant I had infinite bargaining power over my father, because he needed something I had. So that year I asked for $1 million.

I did not get $1 million. Instead I got some amount similar to what I got every other year. Why did my genius bargaining strategy fail? I could list reasons like my dad didn't have $1 million or that he wasn't going to give that much to a child, certainly not for a piece of matzo; but the real reason was because it was ridiculous.

I think Congressional Republicans need to learn a lesson I learned when I was about 10 years old.

Anyone would expect the two parties to disagree on things in the budget. But it's another thing to constantly revisit policy that has become law, been upheld by the Supreme Court and been the centerpiece of two presidential elections. There's a reason the Democrats refer to the GOP tactics as hostage taking. Applying the same conditions on the debt ceiling is even worse. It's threatening the good faith and credit of the US and since the dollar is the world's reserve currency, a very probable global economic break down.

But now it seems that might not be all they demand. They want the entire GOP platform or else. The National Review says it obtained an outline of the GOP debt-ceiling bill. Not only does it delay Obamacare a year, it authorizes the Keystone pipeline, more oil drilling, fewer environmental regulations, weakens Dodd-Frank even more, etc. It's so extreme Ezra Klein says, "The House GOP's debt limit bill -- obtained by the National Review -- isn't a serious governing document. It's not even a plausible opening bid. It's a cry for help."

The party that talks more about faith, needs to learn what good-faith negotiating is.

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