Republicans, clamoring to reduce everyone’s budgets except Defense and their own staff budgets, is profoundly disturbing in many ways. Most disturbing of all is that since taking control of the House in 2010 they have worked fewer days than any Congresses in our history. This can be expressed in terms that my generations’ parents used, “Do as I say, not as I do”, or as Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) states in describing the plight of the American middle-class, the “rules are rigged against it.”
Business-as-usual may no longer be acceptable. But Republicans, despite their massive and ever-increasing staffs, either did not get, or chose to ignore the memo.
My Momma Told Me: Clueless Is As Clueless Does
Even as Karl Rove was having his on-air, panty-twisting, psycho-sounding-even-for-FOX, humiliating meltdown, our two political parties staggered into the newest contentious debate–over the fiscal cliff–the deleterious mix of automatic spending cuts and expiring tax cuts that they themselves created in a typical tantraumatic hissy fit in August 2011. The coming debate, a dreary, depressing sequel to the 2011 debt ceiling melodrama, focuses on deficits not jobs. As is the new norm for Republicans, having learned absolutely nothing from the consequences of their prior screw-up, they are again threatening to :
- Blow up the recovery unless Democrats give them everything they want and how they want it.
- Ignoring the will of the voters for the sake of either: a)some psychological disorder (when children do it it’s called throwing a tantrum and used to precede a belt to the butt behind the woodshed), b) or fear of being “primaried” by some uber-conservative protection-racket-type organization from the bowels of the Dark Lords of the Tea Party Cartel.
Equally disturbing, President Barack Obama, again, looks for a “grand bargain,” seeking bipartisan support for terms divorced from opinion outside the beltway.
And once again–what Scott Galupo at The American Conservative called the “clown show” of the House Republican caucus–blows itself to smithereens.
Republicans have to be the most clueless group of legislators in history because they clearly do not understand this new reality. The just concluded 2012 election’s one clear mandate, confirmed in poll after poll ever since, was for Obama’s repeated declaration to let the Bush tax cuts expire on those earning more than $250,000. Yet, there they are again; House Republicans standing rigid in defense of the very wealthy – refusing to pass their own speaker’s bill to extend the tax breaks on everyone except millionaires—all 1% of the total population of them.
This “rare capitulation” came after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) spent weeks insisting that Republicans would allow the Bush tax breaks to expire on the richest Americans only if the president agrees to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, the core pillars of family security, which he did to the complete dismay of the very voters who elected him and to whom he solemnly promised during the election, he would not do.
When the president came perilously close to giving him yes for an answer, Boehner broke off talks to get House Republicans to vote on his “Plan B” extension of all tax cuts for income under $1 million a year. But, with near Keystone Cop incompetence, House Republicans then blew up their own speaker’s plan. They recoiled at the horror of raising taxes on millionaires – though they could also eliminate the automatic spending cuts for the Pentagon, while doubling them on education, food safety and other domestic programs. Stunned, Boehner sent Congress home for Christmas, telling the media “God only knows” what will happen next.
Even more disturbing to many, Obama’s popularity has soared as Republicans have flailed about, yet Obama continues to seek a “grand bargain.” His last offer to Boehner would cut Social Security, veterans’ benefits and other government benefits over time with the lower inflation rate adjustment – the “chained CPI” – in exchange for ending tax breaks for those earning more than $400,000. Astoundingly, House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she could deliver House Democrats to support that compromise.
The Obama-Pelosi gambit is either the best-played hand of political poker since riverboat gambling, or they just like scaring the bejeesus out of their constituencies.
One thing is for sure, nothing could be more clearly exposed than the stark vastness between conventional wisdom inside the Beltway and the opinions of most Americans. Americans are increasingly aware that they have been getting the shaft, while the big banks, corporations and wealthy individuals have been pocketing the rewards. Large majorities believe their legislators are essentially corrupt and more responsive to their donors than their voters.
That’s why poll after poll shows that broad majorities of Americans – including majorities of Republicans – support raising taxes on the wealthy. Overwhelming majorities – including most Republicans – want Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security protected, not cut.
In an election night poll sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future, voters were asked what they would find acceptable in a deal to cut deficits. Sixty-two percent said cutting Social Security over time was unacceptable. Even more, 72 percent, opposed cutting discretionary spending, like “education, child nutrition, worker training and disease control.” Almost four-fifths, 79 percent, opposed forcing seniors to pay more for Medicare.
Leading the outside lobbying for a deal has been “Fix the Debt,” a multi-million-dollar media campaign funded by billionaire Peter G. Peterson, a hawk on cutting “entitlements,” and a gaggle of corporate and Wall Street CEOs.
But they personify the cluelessness of the elite debate. Bizarrely, they paraded out Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein to make the case for a bargain that would include cuts in the core security programs most Americans depend on.
These plutocrats were apparently oblivious that Americans might not take well to being hectored about the need for “shared sacrifice” by a Wall Street banker who had just received a multi-billion-dollar taxpayer bailout from the financial catastrophe created by Wall Street’s excesses.
In times of resource constraints, the choices made in Washington will be harder to mask.
- Tax breaks for millionaires or cuts in veteran benefits?
- Strip 65- and 66-year-olds of Medicare benefits or shut down corporate tax havens?
- Allow citizens to starve or allow the wealthy to continue to pocket more money?
- Do tax cuts to the rich promote economic growth or does demand for goods and services from a middle-class that’s working instead of collecting unemployment?
If they do cut a grand bargain along the lines now being discussed, which despite the Friday, 12/21/12 GOP meltdown could still get done, politicians in both parties may pay the price two years from now.