Man, I wish this was a post about actual poker. Those online guys still owe me $2.50.
No, this is about the high stakes game being played on Capitol Hill, with the debt ceiling and 2012 elections as the table on which it is being played.
If I were to boil it down to a narrative like you’d see on a poker TV show featuring Texas Hold ‘Em, it would be something like this:
Pre-flop, the President made an initial bet (he offered some cuts, with revenue increases). The Republicans raised, bluffing that they would have voted for it, but it didn’t do enough cutting.
The President called, and on the turn, made a bigger bet, cutting all the amount the Republicans wanted, and still including revenue increases. The Republicans balked, and only called, by saying they wanted less cuts, but remove the revenue and only solve the problem for a short time.
Now, on the river, Democrats bet again, this time offering less cuts, no revenue, but a solution that doesn’t go past the election. Republicans have responded by raising, with even less cuts, no revenue, and only a short term fix.
If we were to look at this as a poker game and do the analysis, what we see is that the one card the President and Democrats have in their hand is public sentiment. Americans overwhelmingly feel this deal needs to be done and that compromise has to come from both sides, including raising revenues. Republicans are ignoring that fact, to their peril come 2012. Especially when you look at the progression of the “hand”.
Democrats propose a solution, Republicans reject it. Democrats propose a solution that exceeds the cost cutting goals that the Republicans wanted, and it too is rejected. So, we know from this play that the Republicans aren’t as concerned with cost cutting. The obvious conclusion would then be that it’s about the revenue increases. So Democrats propose another plan that eliminates the revenue increases. And now, that too appears to be headed to to rejection, as it calls for an increase that goes past the next election. So it’s not the amount of cuts, and it’s not the revenue component. It comes down to when the issue will need to be addressed again. Republicans want it to come up again before elections so they can use it as a political wedge.
In poker, watching what your opponent is doing (and not doing) is usually more important than what you hold in your hand. It tells you what he is rally after, and quite often you can determine what’s in his hand as if he’d shown it to you. In this case, the Republicans have shown their hand. They don’t care about cuts, they don’t care about revenues. The only thing they care about, regardless of what it will do to the nation, is unseat the President. There is no other explanation for their play. They’ve been offered larger cuts than they were looking for, and offered the lack of revenue increases they were looking for. But they still can’t say “yes”. The only explanation left is that they simply want to go after the President.
In poker terms, they’re on tilt. The goal of defeating the opponent has clouded their vision of the right play to make. And in the end, if they don’t take this deal, they will pay for it. Remember the card the Democrats have – public opinion. If Republicans pass on this deal, as it appears they will, Democrats can simply go to the American people and say “We gave them everything they said they wanted, and they still said ‘no’.”
And that won’t just lose the hand for the Republicans. It will lose them them the game.