So, because I’m a masochist, I watched most of the debate last night (in between feeding and putting kids to bed). Here are a few quick impressions of the overall debate and of the individual candidates.
Congress is running out of time to agree on a spending plan that keeps the government open, as Republican leaders attempt to defuse the threat of another shutdown – this one over Planned Parenthood.
Dozens of conservatives in the House and Senate have already pledged not to vote for a spending bill that includes money for Planned Parenthood. But both House speaker John Boehner and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell have rejected such proposals, worried that moderate and independent voters may blame the Republican party for a government shutdown.
Ya think? Shutting down the government two years ago accomplished little but had some support from the public. Shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood will accomplish nothing and have almost no support (current polling shows 70-20 opposition).
This is entirely about Planned Parenthood. The parties are in agreement on the budget, which basically sustains the fiscal path that has cut the budget deficit by 70% over the last six years. Right now, the leadership are trying to schedule a separate vote on defunding Planned Parenthood. Even if that passes, however, the President would veto it. And even if he didn’t, Planned Parenthood would almost certainly sue over it. Most of their government money come via Medicaid, for medical services they provide to poor women (this does not include abortion, for which funding is forbidden). So this would amount to singling them out among many providers for activities which, so far, are not illegal. Moreover, stripping this funding would not stop a single abortion, since Planned Parenthood’s abortion business is a separate revenue stream.
I have no idea where the Republican Party is headed right now. The two men leading the polls are Donald Trump and Ben Carson, neither of whom has any experience and neither of whom has shown much policy knowledge. Meanwhile, the campaign of several promising governors — Christie, Perry, Walker — are imploding. And now we’re talking about a government shutdown to stop an admittedly unpleasant abortion provider from … also providing health services and birth control. And while the GOP is flailing around like this, the Democrats are getting ready to put forward Hillary Clinton or, God help us, Bernie Sanders, as a Presidential candidate.
Give the culture cons their vote on Planned Parenthood. But once that fails, just pass the damn budget. It’s one thing to shut down over spiraling deficits. I didn’t support the shutdown over Obamacare but at least that was partially defensible. But this … this is just silliness. And with an election coming up, it could prove to be very costly silliness.
I don’t like Speaker Boehner or trust him. Which just means I have a lot in common with your average conservative Republican congressman (that and skinny-dipping). It bothers me that this is effectively the most powerful Republican in the federal government. He’s going to compromise our best strengths away and we’re going to get screwed. But I really have no idea what else the GOP in the House should do.
We’re talking about Obama’s legacy here. A working and lasting deal on the debt and taxes would be the starting point for anything good or bad that happens after it. Obama missed this chance last time through incompetence and opportunism. He insisted on holding off on any long-term solution until after re-election and allowed the uncertainty of the fiscal cliff and Taxmageddon (as well as Obamacare, now not going away) to drag down the economy for another year and a half.
This is why his first term must be considered to be a failure. Obama roughly held unemployment in place–unless you want to get into the more complex argument about labor force participation–and that was the issue foremost on voter’s minds. But Bill Clinton promised that nobody could have fixed the economy in four years and he wouldn’t lie to us, right? So Obama gets his re-election and another shot at a grand bargain on the debt ceiling and taxes.
Frankly, I’d be more impressed if the federal government woud just pass a real budget in compliance with the law, but they are so fucked that this isn’t even on the table right now. Whatever Big Fuckin’ Deal these damn fools come up with, it’s going to equally celebrated and meaningless. They’re not doing what needs to happen, they’re postponing it. They’re not really doing what they’re supposed to, but making it look like they are. It’s theatre, but we had best know what the audience is expecting to see on stage: The Rich as the antagonist, who must lose at third act.
The GOP is going to lose plainly on taxes. Incomes on those who make over $250,000 need to go up because we can’t keep defending these people for no clear reason. Yeah, yeah, raising taxes now would throw us back into recession or worsen the one we’re already in, depending on your outlook. The proposed tax increases won’t close the deficit either, I know. But Obama must have that to show off. It’s inescapable. Don’t get me wrong, if we HAD to give Obama a trophy, I’d tell him to take Boehner’s testicles; but he doesn’t want them. He wants to confiscate more wealth from the wealthy.
I say that the taxes on top earners have to go up because the American people don’t know dick about economics. Let’s face it. If they did, they would have shown a lot more curiosity about the lack of a federal budget for nearly four years now and possibly asked some questions about why the recovery was oh so weak. Oh, yeah: They probably wouldn’t have re-elected Obama either.
My prediction is that the Democrats will get the tax increase on “the rich” while barely giving anything in return. Don’t get mad about this though. It’s a loser and the GOP will be better off with it resolved. It will suck all the wind out of the “party of the rich” arguments if any other part of the deal falls through.
The GOP has the big gun in this argument. They can always let all of the Bush tax cuts expire. The demented extremist side of me who would like to collectively kick the electorate in the junk for last Tuesday LOVES the thought of doing this just for spite. Shitty thing is that this would hurt my household too. I’m a working schlub, married to a teacher, and we have two kids. We are that middle class that everyone purports to care about so much and really doesn’t. Hence, we hate everyone else.
Obama most assuredly does not want to be blamed for raising taxes on the middle class (except for Obamacare, because “kids with cancer” or something). If the Democrats don’t agree to some spending cuts beyond reducing the military to menacing our enemies with rubberband-fired paper clips, then the GOP must announce that no agreement that realistically reduces the deficit could be reached and they have no choice but to allow the tax cuts to sunset.
The Democrats do not want this and will work hard to prevent it. The problem is that even though we have the advantage in the form of the great tax increase gambit, we have the biggest disadvantage on the game board: Boehner himself. This isn’t about him, it’s about Obama. Both of them want to secure their own legacies and I think Boehner is the less committed of the two. Worse, he still thinks that something can be worked out man-to-man with this president. His greatest weapon is that which Obama most fears: tax increases on everybody. Not beating Obama at golf.
If Boehner does not use the big gun, then he establishes Obama as a good-enough president for resolving the debt stalemate, passes an idiotic compromise that accomplishes nothing for the good of his country, and proves once again how ultimately meaningless it is to give the GOP control of any part of the federal government.
Obama’s legacy is on the line but all eyes should be on Boehner now.