Tag: Republican Party

The Big Deal

Grab onto something, folks. I’m going to agree with Mark Thiessen (H/T: Harley):

Quick: What do Republicans want in exchange for ending the government shutdown? If you know the answer, congratulations — because Republicans sure don’t.

we’ve gone from defunding Obamacare . . . to delaying Obamacare . . . to delaying parts of Obamacare . . . to funding the government piecemeal without touching Obamacare at all. If Republicans have already conceded the defunding of Obamacare, what’s the point of keeping the government closed? Why on earth would the GOP pass “clean” bills to fund individual parts of the government but not the whole government?

This business of passing funding bills for little piece of the government has been driving me a bit crazy. In a rational budget process — even in a shutdown — you would carefully pick which parts of the government to fund. But it’s clear that the strategy has been to identify whatever parts of the government are getting the most complaints (NIH, park service, etc.), pass a tiny bill to fund them and then go on television to bash the Democrats for not assenting to it.

That wins the media cycle but it’s no way to run a government. It’s completely arbitrary. It means that we try to divert funds to highly visible things like the Park Service, which would be one of the last things I would fund right now. More, it encourages partially shutdown services to deliberately make things worse to get their funding restored. Gain Nortion, Bush’s former Interior Secretary, describes how the Park Service has a long history of deliberately inconveniencing people whenever their budget is threatened (this weekend, they have “closed” the Vietnam Memorial — which is a wall that anyone can visit 24/7). No doubt, the Administration doesn’t mind this sort of visibility. But by putting forward little bills to fund whichever government agency is making the loudest noise, the GOP is encouraging this sort of behavior.

Back to Thiessen:

It calls to mind the episode of “Seinfeld” where Jerry and George are coming up with an idea for a show to pitch to NBC — and decide it will be “a show about nothing.” That’s what this standoff has become — the Seinfeld Shutdown, a shutdown about nothing.

Thiessen, however, is not just throwing bricks. He has an alternative proposal: that instead of using the shutdown or the debt ceiling for leverage, the Republicans use the Budget Control Act (aka the sequester). Grover Norquist is on the same page:

I think the original plan for the Republicans was to move the continuing resolution past the debt ceiling and then to sit down with Obama and decide whether he would be willing to trade some relaxation of the sequester for significant reforms of entitlements. That was something Obama might well do. Democrats in the House and the Senate are very concerned about caps and limits in sequestration. Republicans could get significant long-term entitlement reform — all on the spending side, I’m assured by leadership — for some relaxation of sequester.

See, this is what an actual compromise would look like. The Republicans are running around saying Obama won’t compromise because he won’t delay or change Obamacare. But they are not offering anything in exchange other than not blowing up the government. A sequestration-for-entitlements exchange would be a real compromise, giving Democrats something they want. But it would still be a huge win for Republicans — a few billion in spending now for statutory changes in entitlements (e.g., chained CPI) that could save trillions down the road. Statutory changes in entitlements are an especially good thing because, unlike sequestration, they would be very hard for future Congresses to undo.

The thing is, our budget situation is a bit tricky right now. The FY 2013 deficit is below $700 billion and projected to fall more in the next few years. But starting around FY 2018, it starts ramping up again. The reason is entitlements — the wave of retiring Baby Boomers putting a strain on Social Security and Medicare spending.

(This long-term situation has, over the last few years, gotten a lot less horrifying by trillions of dollars. The reason is that healthcare spending has leveled off. Obama is trying to claim credit for this but he’s a bit hoist by his own petard. He delayed Obamacare until after the election both to avoid the political hit and to force the CBO to claim that it decreased the deficit. But those delays also mean the cost curve bent before he did anything. The reasons the cost curve has come down are mainly the down economy and the natural saturation of the healthcare market. I said years ago, when people were projecting that healthcare would eventually consume 2,634% of our GDP, that if something can’t be sustained, it won’t be. It couldn’t and it wasn’t.)

The time to strike on entitlements is now. The longer we wait, the harder it will be and the more dramatic the changes required. You reform entitlements and keep discretionary spending level and you will basically balance the budget within the decade without any further action. Cutting spending further will make the situation even better, but … further cuts will entail either cutting defense spending (which the Republicans oppose) or more discretionary/entitlement spending (which will not happen until the GOP wins an election; which will not happen until they show they can govern).

There are whispers that this deal may happen but it seems to be focusing more on yet another budget committee. But we’ve had eight — count ‘em — eight budget committees. We don’t need another one to tell us what we need. What we need is a deal.

Closed for Business

As of midnight tonight, we will very likely have a partial government shutdown due to the lack of a continuing resolution. The Republicans passed one that stripped funding from Obamacare (although it’s not that simple; stopping Obamacare requires statutory changes). The Senate bounced it. Now the Republicans have passed a CR that delays Obamacare a year and voids the medical device tax. This has also been rejected by the Senate for fairly obvious reasons. Among other things, most of Obamacare will start to be implemented tomorrow, regardless of what Congress does. And the Democrats will never accept delaying Obamacare a year. Their only hope is that the inevitable Obamacare clusterfuck becomes less of one by election time. They’re not going to accept a deal that puts maximum clusterfuckery right on top of the election.

So here we are.

Ted Cruz says this is the Republicans “listening to the people” but it really isn’t. The public is opposed to a shutdown. This is Cruz listening to the sliver of his supporters that do. Just to be clear: whether or not the government should be shut down to stop Obamacare shouldn’t be dependent on polls. But the idea that public is demanding a shutdown is simply wrong.

While a shutdown is not as bad as hitting the debt ceiling, I still think it’s a bad idea. The perpetual budget crisis is creating massive uncertainty for businesses — remember when uncertainty was a bad thing? — and hurting our economy. Maybe you could justify that if there were a hope of tossing Obamacare, but there isn’t: not with the Democrats in control of the Senate and the White House. And as the shutdown goes on, it is only going to strengthen the Democrats’ hand. Any problems with Obamacare will be ignored in the wake of the larger crisis or blamed on the shutdown. And the shutdown is very likely to blow up in the GOP’s face, politically. It’s very hard to turn this around to blame Obama when a) you’re the one who wants changes to existing law; b) your party is opposed to government anyway (or claims to be); and c) parts of your party are running around saying a government shutdown isn’t a bad thing.

(The shutdown is also a great unknown and is likely to have some very bad effects. I work with some active duty military and they’re staring down having to work without pay while the shutdown lasts. There’s some word about passing a bill to pay the soldiers, but no word yet on where it’s going.)

So ultimately, while this might make for good sound bites, I believe it is making for bad politics and making the permanent installation of Obamacare more, not less, likely.

The situation with the debt ceiling has, however, gotten even worse. The Republicans have issued a list of demands for suspending the debt ceiling for three months. There’s no word on if it was written with letters cut out of magazines:

Tax Reform Instructions

  • Similar to a bill we passed last fall, laying out broad from Ryan Budget principles for what tax reform should look like.
  • Gives fast track authority for tax reform legislation
  • Energy and regulatory reforms to promote economic growth

  • Includes pretty much every jobs bill we have passed this year and last Congress
  • All of these policies have important positive economic effects.
  • Keystone Pipeline
  • Coal Ash regulations
  • Offshore drilling
  • Energy production on federal lands
  • EPA Carbon regulations
  • REINS Act
  • Regulatory process reform
  • Consent decree reform
  • Blocking Net Neutrality
  • Mandatory Spending Reforms

  • Mostly from the sequester replacement bills we passed last year
  • Federal Employee retirement reform
  • Ending the Dodd Frank bailout fund
  • Transitioning CFPB funding to Appropriations
  • Child Tax Credit Reform to prevent fraud
  • Repealing the Social Services Block grant
  • Health Spending Reforms

  • Means testing Medicare
  • Repealing a Medicaid Provider tax gimmick
  • Tort reform
  • Altering Disproportion Share Hospitals
  • Repealing the Public Health trust Fund
  • They also, at a late stage, added a provision to remove the birth control mandate.

    Look, most of those are good ideas. The problem is that the Republicans ran on those ideas in 2012 and lost the election. Romney lost by four points and 126 electoral votes. And before you say, “he wasn’t conservative enough”, remember that he polled better nationally than the rest of the party did. The GOP lost eight seats in the House and two seats in the Senate, at least partially because of the primarying of moderates. To threaten the credit of the United States in an attempt to enact a rejected agenda would be absurd if it weren’t so repulsive. Again, the question I asked last week: do you want the Democrats doing this to President Rubio?

    It’s also, to me, fundamentally unserious. Even if Obama were amenable to the GOP’s wish list of issues, no agenda like that could be passed in three months, let alone a few days. It makes me more and more suspicious that the GOP’s actions are more about talking a big talk and raking in donations from the Tea Party than about seriously changing the course of our country. A serious group of conservatives would be trying to actually, you know, accomplish something, not breaching the debt ceiling so that they can prove how “tough” they are while accomplishing fuck all.

    I would be remiss if I didn’t note that this sort of thing has happened before. Congress has previously attached debt ceiling hikes to legislation. Most of it was fiscally related; but several hikes were linked to other issues, such as in 1973, when Ted Kennedy and Walter Mondale tried to attach campaign finance reform to a debt ceiling hike.

    But I would submit that when you’re following in the footsteps of Ted Kennedy and Walter Mondale … maybe you need to rethink your strategy.

    The Debt Ceiling … Again

    I think I’ve made my contempt for Obamacare pretty clear. I’ve pointed out its deep flaws, its underestimated expenses, its dubious Constitutionality. In my more cynical moments, I wonder if its flaws aren’t the point: to make the system so much worse that people will demand socialized medicine. We’re already seeing employers shed insurance and rates go up. It’s been hitting me personally as my employer has had to raise insurance rates because of increasing costs.

    But you know what? As much as I hate Obamacare, it’s not worth crashing the debt ceiling over.

    As you know, we reached out statutory debt limit a few months ago. The Treasury Department has been using various means to avoid exceeding it, but those means will run out within a month. And a significant fraction of the Republican caucus is already contemplating a debt ceiling crash, refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Obamacare is repealed or defunded.

    Let’s take those demands on their own terms. Repeal is not going to happen with a Democratic Senate and White House (and might not happen even if they were in GOP hands). Defunding it sounds good, but as Tom Coburn has reminded us (PDF), this will not actually stop the law from being implemented. The statutory parts will be in place. All that will be denied are funding for insurance exchanges and subsidies. Let me clarify that: people and employers will still be forced to buy insurance, but the mechanisms designed to ease the financial burden will be denied. I don’t see how that’s better.

    So this tactic will be ineffective at best and bad at worse. And in return, we would get … the first ever default on American debt. The negative impact of that on the American economy is not imaginary. Look what happened last time:

    High-frequency data on consumer confidence from the research company Gallup, based on surveys of 500 Americans daily, provide a good picture of the debt-ceiling debate’s impact (see chart). Confidence began falling right around May 11, when Boehner first announced he would not support increasing the debt limit. It went into freefall as the political stalemate worsened through July. Over the entire episode, confidence declined more than it did following the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in 2008. After July 31, when the deal to break the impasse was announced, consumer confidence stabilized and began a long, slow climb that brought it back to its starting point almost a year later. (Disclosure: We have a consulting relationship with Gallup.)

    Growth in nonfarm payrolls decelerated to an average 88,000 a month during the three months of the debt-ceiling impasse, compared with an average of 176,000 in the first five months of 2011 (see chart). Payroll growth subsequently recovered and has averaged 187,000 jobs a month since. Despite the rebound in job growth, employment is likely still below where it would otherwise have been.

    There are also more visible permanent scars. The sense that the U.S. political system could no longer credibly commit to paying its debts led the credit-rating company Standard & Poor’s to remove the U.S. government from its list of risk-free borrowers with gold-standard AAA ratings. Just as a poor credit score raises the interest rate you pay in the long run, so a worse credit rating will probably raise the interest rate on our national debt.

    The debt ceiling fight caused 300,000 fewer people to find work that summer, even is we assume no longer-term impact. Real progress was made on the debt in the next two years, but if a debt ceiling crash raises interest rates even 1%, that will mean a spike in federal interest payment that will wipe out almost all of those gains. Is that worth having what amounts to a national temper tantrum over Obamacare?

    But there is something more dangerous at play here. When the Republicans threatened to hit the debt ceiling in 2011; when Obama voted against it years earlier; there was at least a strain of thought involved. We couldn’t raise the debt ceiling, the crashers told us, because we were going to default anyway. Our debt was out of control. Would you extend more credit to someone who was already wildly overspending? We couldn’t possibly raise the debt ceiling until our fiscal path was stable.

    But this isn’t a fight over debt. If it were, we’d be talking about tax reform or entitlements. This is threatening to crash the economy if the Republicans don’t get their way. If we allow this precedent to be set, where does it stop? Judicial nominations? Union regulation? Are we going to threaten the debt ceiling when Republicans don’t like the table arrangements at White House banquet?

    This isn’t a negotiation. This isn’t a tactic. This isn’t politics. This is a hostage situation. The GOP is holding a gun to the country’s head and threatening to blow the brains out of our economy if they don’t get what they want. That I want the same thing — the repeal of Obamacare — is irrelevant. You don’t deal with a termite infestation by burning the house down.

    Pause a moment. Put aside your feelings about Obama and Obamacare. Do you want this precedent set? Do you want the Democrats to use it against President Rubio? Do you want them to threaten to hit the debt ceiling if he doesn’t fund abortions? Or pass universal daycare? Or raise taxes on the rich?

    This bullshit must stop. It’s gone too far. This isn’t a game; this is our country. It’s bad enough that we’re staring down the barrel of a politically-disastrous government shutdown. But a debt ceiling crash? As much as Obamacare is going to hurt us, it’s peanuts compared to that. Millions of us are still unemployed; others in precarious positions. For a bunch of people with guaranteed jobs to promise to make things worse for no discernible gain (other than making talk-radio yammerheads happy) is the most breath-takingly irresponsible unconservative thing I can imagine. And, unfortunately, it’s about what I’ve come to expect.

    The District Plan

    The GOP is moving forward, in several states, with plans to change how electoral votes are allocated. The most recent — passed by the disgusting tactic of waiting until a black Democratic senator was attending the inauguration to shove it through by one vote — is even worse than the plan in Pennsylvania. Under this plan, electoral votes would be allocated to the winner of each congressional district with the remaining two votes going to the candidates who wins the most districts. Jamelle Bouie breaks down the problem with this:

    Because Democratic voters tend to cluster in highly-populated urban areas, and Republican voters tend to reside in more sparsely populated regions, this makes land the key variable in elections—to win the majority of a state’s electoral votes, your voters will have to occupy the most geographic space.

    In addition to disenfranchising voters in dense areas, this would end the principle of “one person, one vote.” If Ohio operated under this scheme, for example, Obama would have received just 22 percent of the electoral votes, despite winning 52 percent of the popular vote in the state.

    This is not even a remotely conservative idea. This is a straight up attempt to win elections by trickery. Under this system, a Republican candidate could score well short of a majority of votes and still win the state. Does that make any sense? Does it sound just and reasonable? Would we be nodding our heads and saying, “that sounds good” if Democrats were doing this?

    (Actually, we don’t need to think very hard. When Lani Guinier was nominated for assistant AG, the Republicans objected because she had written in favor of voting systems that were skewed to give minorities more votes than majorities.)

    Furthermore, we have talked about the GOP’s problem getting votes from anyone other than white men. Whether this plan is intended to disenfranchise black voters or not is beside the point; that’s the way everyone will perceive it. We could be talking another two or three decades of the GOP getting single digit votes from African-Americans.

    I also can’t see how this would pass Constitutional muster. While the states are allowed to pick their electors any they want, Bush v. Gore established the precedent that equal protection applies to votes in a Presidential election (and how fun will that be: to watch liberals cite the hated Bush v. Gore as precedent). So the likely result of this would be a bruising Constitutional fight in which the GOP is arguing for effectively disenfranchising millions of voters.

    This is stupid and mindless. If the GOP wants to win elections, rigging the game is not the solution. Putting forward a positive agenda, showing competent management skills and convincing everyone that a conservative agenda is good for them is the way. Chris Christie has pursued this strategy in New Jersey and is now so popular that Cory Booker may aver from challenging him in favor of a Senate Run (this, in turn, has provoked to respond in a way that would certainly be called racist is he were a Republican rather than a senile doddering Democrat).

    But, of course, rebuilding conservatism is hard work. It might take five to ten years to pay off. Rigging an election could pay off now.

    The biggest problem with the GOP is that everything they have done for the last decade has been oriented around winning today without any thought to the long term. This is why entitlements were expanded under Bush instead of reformed. This is why their attacks on Obama consist of news gotchyas instead of deconstructions of his bad policies (and, not coincidentally, why Obama has thumped them in two elections). This is why our budget process has devolved into a series of self-created crises — the cliff, the debt ceiling, the sequester. This is why the GOP in Virginia thinks that creating a system where a Republican can lose the popular vote but when the electoral — by design, not by accident — is a reasonable response to two electoral defeats.

    The GOP used to be about the long term. Until they are again, they will continue to lose elections and they will continue to flounder to advance anything approaching conservatism.

    The Times They Are A-Changin’


    The momentum continues to build for same sex marriage in Illinois.

    On Wednesday, Pat Brady, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, said he was putting his “full support” behind marriage equality legislation pending in Springfield.

    “More and more Americans understand that if two people want to make a lifelong commitment to each other, government should not stand in their way,” Brady said. “Giving gay and lesbian couples the freedom to get married honors the best conservative principles. It strengthens families and reinforces a key Republican value – that the law should treat all citizens equally.”

    “Importantly, the pending legislation would protect the freedom of religion,” Brady added. “No church or religious organization would ever be required to perform a union with which it disagrees.”

    I’m actually not surprised. Gay marriage won in four elections this year and the tide has clearly turned, especially with young voters. Moreover, the tide is turning among conservatives, who see this as a way to better integrate gays into the broader society. The GOP is slowly moving toward a much more defensible position: allowing gay marriage while protecting the right of churches to define marriage as they see fit. There is a wedge here: the Obama Administration attacked the ministerial exemption last year and was soundly thrashed by a unanimous Supreme Court. With the ministerial exemption now resting on extremely solid constitutional footing, the GOP can pivot on marriage and allow it for those who want it.

    This is yet another hopeful sign that the fever is breaking in the GOP and they are moving not necessarily toward moderation, per se, but toward a more practical and sensible approach to governing. If they can find a straddle that respects both sides of the culture wars — as this one seems to — it will allow them to make inroads in Democratic constituencies and defuse some of more contentious issues in politics.

    But more important than that is that it’s a step toward getting government out of our private lives, for good or ill. For that lone, this is a good thing.

    Boehner Flinches from the Abyss

    So for all of the stress, the House GOP leadership (including Paul Ryan), a minority of Republican Congressmen, and a majority of Democrats
    passed the tax deal they were offered by the Senate. The Rich (less than 1% of the population) got tagged with a 4.6% increase (horrors!) and caps were placed on deductions, among other meaningless items.

    I suppose it is palatable since we have at least gotten the remainder of Bush’s tax cuts to remain permanent. Even Grover Norquist has twisted this and basically said that since the tax cuts had expired, those Republicans who voted for this deal were voting for a tax cut, not an increase. Interesting contortion.

    But then there’s virtually no spending cut in this deal. The increased revenue is not going to make a dent in the deficit. For all the drama, we slapped a few million wealthy people with a small tax raise and refused to address the fact that spending is out of control. It’s a pathetic failure of the entire political establishment.

    It is easy to blast Boehner today, but what choice did he have? Yes, I personally believed it would have been best to go over the cliff and let the chips fall where they may. However, I knew that Boehner wouldn’t do that. He didn’t want to take the blame for tax increases on the middle class (it’s going to happen eventually anyway) and it was too tempting to target the unpopular minority that is top earners. Also, he likes grand, useless compromises for some reason.

    On the bright side, around 2/3 of the House GOP broke with Boehner on this deal and hence have political cover. Boehner has set himself up beautifully for the inevitable coup and primary challenge that he has coming.

    I would say that he was courageous to do this IF I actually believed that the deal means anything. It doesn’t. It’s too little, too late, and still comes across as a major defeat for the GOP. We could have gotten a tax deal as useless as this one weeks ago and not had the brinksmanship that managed to make Obama look like a triumphant, responsible statesman.

    Boehner must not be returned as the Speaker of the House, even if means leaving the post vacant. The real fight is going to be over the debt ceiling and Boehner cannot be counted on to do right either by his party or the nation.

    The Unserious GOP

    Ladies and gentlemen, if you want to know why I voted for Gary Johnson this year, here it is in one tweet:

    That’s Marco Rubio, rising star of the GOP, boasting that the GOP is refusing to tackle entitlements and insisting that we blame Barack Obama for one of the few good ideas to emerge from the Fiscal Cliff mess.

    I haven’t posted much on the Fiscal Cliff mess since I knew the Congress and the President, like dumb students who have known a paper was due all semester, would wait until the last minute. I will not be surprised at all if we go over the cliff. But keep this in mind: the President and his party are laughable clowns. But a big obstacles here — as boasted by Rubio — is that the GOP doesn’t really want to cut spending.

    Hey Mr DJ: Brass Balls Edition

    The GOP is in disarray!  Congressional Republicans are wavering on taxes as Speaker John Boehner’s eyes well up with tears at the sight of the oncoming fiscal cliff.

    What happened?  Obama found his backbone with nothing left to lose now that he has four more years to party it up.  The polls favor his tax increases on the rich and he knows that his media allies will assure that the GOP takes the blame for the resulting tax raises on the middle class, the resulting recession, or both.

    Never before has the GOP needed some balls more and yet found them in shorter supply.

    A day may come, when the courage of conservatives fails.  When we forsake our oaths to Grover Norquist and break the fellowship of the Tea Party.  That day is not this day.  That day will probably come in December.

    This week, we need to gather up and melt down some brass for John Boehner’s balls.  This will require:

    1. Any track that uses brass instruments (e.g.: trumpets, saxophones, tubas, trombones)

    2. Genres to consider include Big Band, Swing, Jazz, Ska, Blues, etc.

    Predictable first selection is In the Mood by Glenn Miller

    For last week’s smart shoppers:

    pfluffy, who elbowed me in the ribs for that XBox*: Night Boat to Cairo by Madness

    Iconoclast, who trampled over me at Best Buy* for the last Blu-Ray copy of The Complete Works of John Hughes Collection: Us and Them by Pink Floyd

    Biggie G, who delivered a crippling kick to my kneecap and ran off with the iPad I wanted at the Apple Store*: Super Bad by James Brown

    Mississippi Yankee…there I was at Toys R Us*, reaching for that super-cool Thomas the Train set. The second I touched it, MY emerged,  grabbed my hand, and bit it. He didn’t take the train set though.  Just wanted to share the pain. The true spirit of the holidays?  Green Hornet Theme by Al Hirt

    *RTFLC thanks its corporate sponsors!

    Whither California?

    Many of you, especially those of you who live there, know how screwed up the state of California is. For a long time, the Democrats have blamed this sad state of affairs not on their idiocy, their subservience to public labor unions or their refusal to control spending, but on the Republican minority in the legislature.

    Looks like they are going to run out of excuses soon:

    Mitt Romney lost to President Obama by a landslide 21 percentage points in a state that used to consistently side with the Republican nominee.

    Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein drew only token Republican opposition and won by 23 points.

    Democrats, at last count, were gaining four congressional seats in California.

    The stunner was the state Assembly, where Democrats apparently achieved a historic supermajority to match the party’s similar feat in the Senate. This means there’s virtually nothing that Democrats can’t pass on their own in Sacramento, relegating Republicans to mathematical irrelevancy.

    But it doesn’t stop there.

    The Republican slice of registered voters in California slipped below 30%. Only eight years ago it was nearly 35%. Democrats are 44%.

    And about that loud anti-tax mantra, the Republicans’ favorite rallying cry: Most voters aren’t listening.

    Two tax-increase measures were approved by Californians. Brown’s Prop. 30 won by a surprising 8 points. Prop. 39, ending a tax break mainly for out-of-state corporations, was approved by 20 points.

    Skelton blames this on the weak Republican party and their inability to compromise. There may be something to that, but I’m dubious that even a functional GOP could make progress in California. The fact is that the Democratic majority has persuaded the people of California that their salvation lies in more spending, more taxes and more regulation.

    Those of you who have read Atlas Shrugged may remember the endgame. The national government kept pursuing collectivists policies. As that drove achievers away and crippled the economy, they responded with ever more collectivism, eventually destroying the national economy.

    I am under no illusion that the denizens of California will realize how badly the Democratic Party is screwing them. As the state continues to decay into bankruptcy and economic stagnation, the Democrats will continue to blame Republicans and the public will continue to follow along. As a result, I think we are about to Atlas Shrugged played out in real life.

    Ceiling Obama’s Fate

    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.