Much of the media believes that President Obama has emerged “the loser” of the debt ceiling negotiations. Although that might be the simplest (and therefore easiest) conclusion to sell to the public, it is not accurate.
Let’s consider the opening negotiating positions of Obama and congressional Republicans. Both wanted to substantially reduce the deficit (Obama said $4 trillion in 12 years, Republicans said $6 trillion in 10 years).
Obama’s first priority in the debt ceiling negotiations was to raise the debt ceiling. In addition to that, he wanted to close the deficit. His plan would have made a fairly large amount of cuts to discretionary spending, including cuts from the pentagon’s budget. His plan also would have made some cuts from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, while basically preserving the fundamental nature of those programs. Obama also would have increased revenue by $1 trillion, specifically by repealing the Bush tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 a year and closing tax loopholes.
The initial Republican negotiating plan is best represented by the Ryan budget. That plan would have included no revenue increases. It would have included major cuts to discretionary spending, including some to defense (although a smaller amount than those in Obama’s plan). Much of the savings would have come from overhauls of Medicare and Medicaid which would have substantially changed the nature of those programs. A large number of congressional Republicans did not want to raise the debt ceiling at all, even if they could have gotten everything they wanted.
So, what happened? Well, they raised the debt ceiling. That is a win for Obama. They made initial cuts of $1 trillion from cuts in discretionary spending, split evenly between defense and non-defense spending. Cuts to discretionary spending were in both plans. Republicans wanted more cuts from non-defense, Obama wanted more from defense. So, the cuts were really a wash.
Regarding the conditions for negotiations this November, those also come out neutral. Revenue increases are disadvantaged in those negotiations (good for Republicans), but the triggers include major defense cuts (good for Obama).
The vote on the Balanced Budget Amendment is worthless. It won’t pass and has no teeth. It is neutral.
So, at the end of the day, what was passed was everything that both Obama and congressional Republicans wanted. Republicans wanted some cuts to defense. Obama wanted some cuts to non-defense discretionary spending. The majority of Republicans wanted to increase the debt limit.
In other words, about a quarter of Obama’s deficit reduction plan was exactly the same as the Republicans’ deficit reduction plan. That quarter is what passed. And they also increased the debt limit.
It is true that Obama didn’t get everything he wanted, but he didn’t really give up anything that he didn’t want either. He just got a portion of his plan enacted and increased the debt limit. I fail to see how so much of the media believes that not only did Obama lose, but that he got lambasted.
 Technically “defense” usually just refers to the pentagon. In this case, the cuts were split between “security” and “non-security.” “Security” includes defense, homeland security and other similar departments.