The most recent status report on the negotiations over the “fiscal cliff” certainly doesn’t give much reason for optimism:
(CNN) – House Speaker John Boehner painted a bleak picture Sunday when talking about fiscal cliff negotiations between the White House and Republicans.
“Right now I would say we’re nowhere. Period. We’re nowhere. We’ve put a serious offer on the table by putting revenues up there to try to get this question resolved, but the White House has responded with virtually nothing,” Boehner said on “Fox News Sunday.”
My understanding is that the president’s proposals rest on three legs:
- Raise taxes on the highest income earners while leaving the remainder of the “Bush tax cuts” intact.
- Leave Social Security and Medicare alone.
- Make raising the debt ceiling automatic.
I wasn’t entirely surprised at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s reaction (he broke out laughing). My immediate reaction was that the president had opened with the insult price.
I must say that the entire proceedings in these negotiations look very childish to me. They’re a caricature of negotiations. Good faith negotiations, the kind that are intended to arrive at a resolution, aren’t the same as imposing terms on a vanquished foe. After all, Speaker Boehner won his own election. The president defeated Mitt Romney not the Republican Party.
The Harvard Negotiation Project outlined the following components of a successful, principled negotiation:
- Separate the people from the problem.
- Focus on interests, not positions.
- Invent options for mutual gain.
- Insist on using objective criteria.
- Know your best alternative to negotiated agreement.
They’re doing the opposite of this. To my untutored eye it looks as though both sides are approaching the negotiations as though the only way to win is for the other side to lose.