The epic negotiations going on between the government and the GOP to pass a series of savage cuts is a precursor to many more confrontations in the coming years. The republicans are holding the government hostage by insisting on a series of absurd cuts to social spending that would hit the poor and middle classes disproportionately hard.
President Obama is dutifully trying to mitigate the impact of the cuts republicans have demanded, but again has been forced to move further and further away from the left and meet the republicans in a new center that looks more like the right.
This is the long game being played by the GOP - a relentless chipping away at the American consciousness to shift the debate in their favor by insisting their extreme positions are somehow normal. The democrats are fighting an uphill battle, the never ending rhetoric of republicans and the corporate media that validates their arguments.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that cuts to social spending and government jobs will be harmful to the economy (just read the works of serious economists like Paul Krugman, Nouriel Roubini and Joseph Stiglitz), there appears to be an elite consensus that these cuts are necessary. Why? Because their jobs are secure (many of them having been saved during the Wall st bailout) and they are not dependent on welfare to eat and house their families. To elites, the economy is an equation, not a reality and their views on fiscal policy reflect that convenient detachment.
The GOP's job is to protect the interests of the rich, and they will hold the country to ransom in order to fulfill their agenda. Now that they control the congress, they can exert serious pressure on the president and force him to give in to many of their demands. A deal may be reached where both parties walk away with small victories and small losses, but ultimately, the American people are the ones who will suffer the most.
This is how government works in America - checks and balances with no branch wielding too much power over another - hypothetically a good thing except when one side consists of adults, and the other petulant children determined to get their way at all costs.