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A Solidly Republican House Crashes Down on Grover Norquist

6:54 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

At this point all I can do is laugh when I think about how some of my friends on the far right were naive as to think that sensible Republicans in Congress had failed to heed the message of the 2012 election and the current political realities borne therefrom. The latest development in the fiscal cliff drama show to what degree some on the right have regained their senses and moved back to the center, in the direction of much needed compromise. Quoting political commentator Jennifer Steinhauer: “Ending a climactic fiscal showdown in the final hours of the 112th Congress, the House late Tuesday passed and sent to President Obama legislation to avert big income tax increases on most Americans and prevent large cuts in spending for the Pentagon and other government programs. The measure, brought to the House floor less than 24 hours after its passage in the Senate, was approved 257 to 167, with 85 Republicans joining 172 Democrats in voting to allow income taxes to rise for the first time in two decades, in this case for the highest-earning Americans…The decision by Republican leaders to allow the vote came despite widespread scorn among House Republicans for the bill, passed overwhelmingly by the Senate in the early hours of New Year’s Day. They were unhappy that it did not include significant spending cuts in health and other social programs, which they say are essential to any long-term solution to the nation’s debt.” Clearly and unequivocally the resolution of the fiscal cliff represents a major defeat for Grover Norquist and his Tea Party allies as well as a significant victory for president Obama.

And what of those Republican Congressman who voted to let tax rates rise? Remember how often we’ve been told that almost every Republican in the House had signed Grover Norquist’s “No Tax Pledge.” Quoting Politico’s Alexander Burns and Maggie Habberman: “…given the lopsided Senate vote in favor of the tax-hiking measure, as well as the 85 GOP House members who voted yes, members of the GOP have violated the party’s no-new-taxes orthodoxy for the first time in two decades. It’s a significant concession in the aftermath of Mitt Romney’s November defeat and a potentially existential moment for a party that has prided itself on a defiant and dogmatic dislike of tax increases. What remains to be seen is whether that is merely a tactical retreat — bowing to the unique circumstances of the fiscal cliff — or a more meaningful cave-in on the part of Republicans who believe that their anti-tax platform has become politically unsustainable, particularly after a presidential cycle in which the party found itself caricatured as the puppets of the rich and powerful.” Perhaps it was the fact that a large majority of Republican Senators had voted for a tax hike that finally drove home the political reality to the 85 Republican Congressional legislators who decided to follow suit. Why even such staunch conservatives as Congressman Paul Ryan and Senators Patrick J. Toomey and Tom Coburn voted in favor of raising taxes. The fact that, in the face of a growing fiscal crisis, that Republicans voted to raise revenue via tax hikes, should come as no surprise as 2012 election exit polling showed 75% of the voters supported said increases, including a large minority of those who voted for Mitt Romney. Fox News contributor and prominent conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer opined: “This is a complete surrender on everything” and “a rout.” Not surprisingly, Norquist himself appeared on the cable circuit claiming to Anderson Cooper, among others, that the “deal was technically not a pledge violation”, but then what would you expect to hear from a guy who just went off of his own political cliff.

Many on the right have been seen to try to spin this defeat as a tactical maneuver that takes taxes off the table thereby enabling the G.O.P. to be more hard-nosed in dealing with the debt ceiling / spending cuts debate that we’ll be revisiting in a few months. But this too may amount to nothing but wishful thinking. Again quoting Burns and Habberman: “The president’s party, meanwhile, has no intention of easing up on a GOP they believe is in serious disarray. And while Republicans take heart from the hope that they’ll have more leverage in the next showdown, emboldened Democrats say the demand for “balanced” deficit reduction — meaning both spending cuts and new taxes — remains a challenge for their foes. Democratic pollster Geoff Garin, who advised the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA, called the fiscal cliff deal “a band-aid on a serious wound” for Republicans. “The sane wing of the Republican Party recognized the GOP was playing a losing hand badly on taxes in a way that was deeply damaging to the Republican brand,” Garin said. “The Republicans will find themselves in a similar mess going forward if they insist on entitlement cuts while resisting new revenues from closing loopholes and tax breaks for those at the top.”

In the final analysis, when the spin and the political posturing is put aside there is one simple fact that comes through as the dust settles in the aftermath of the fiscal cliff and that is that Barack Obama has just cashed in on some major political capital and the sensible conservatives knew he had it to use and fully intended to use it. Obama ran, in part, on solving the fiscal crisis by raising taxes on the richest among us and won. America had two clear choices to pick from and they didn’t pick the conservative version. Much has been made of the fact that the G.O.P. had held onto the House but they only did so as a result of redistricting. In terms of absolute votes cast for those running for Congress, across the nation as a whole, “Democratic candidates for Congress won 1.1 million more votes than Republicans, according to a tally of the popular vote kept by David Wasserman, the House editor of The Cook Political Report.” The Republican leadership in Congress knows that winning as a result of map making means a lot less politically than does winning by popular appeal and presently the G.O.P. ranks near the low end of its historic popularity. More importantly, the American people have demanded compromise and they indicated that they are clearly fed up with Tea Party obstruction on Capitol Hill. This had to be a motivating factor for Republicans as it is they, not Obama and the Democrats who would have been blamed for the country’s sliding back into a recession. In the end President Obama wound up giving less in the way of concessions than he would have just two weeks ago when he bargained with John Boehner in search of a deal and dramatically less than he would have back in 2011 when he and the Speaker were on the verge of a “Grand Bargain.” Such is the measure of the political shift that has taken place since the Tea Party victories in 2010 and Obama’s re-election this past November.

Steven J. Gulitti
1/2/2013

Sources:
Jennifer Steinhauer: “Divided House Passes Tax Deal in End to Latest Fiscal Standoff”; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/02/us/politics/house-takes-on-fiscal-cliff.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0&ref=todayspaper

“John Boehner, Eric Cantor Split On Fiscal Cliff Deal”; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/02/john-boehner-eric-cantor_n_2395593.html?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=010213&utm_medium=email&utm_content=FeatureTitle&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei: “BEHIND THE CURTAIN — Why the GOP caved: The politics are horrible on the backside of the cliff”; http://www.politico.com/playbook/

“Tea party backers swallow a bitter pill in ‘cliff’ bill”; http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/cliff-bill-is-a-bitter-pill-for-houses-tea-party-adherents-to-swallow/2013/01/01/5345286e-544d-11e2-8e84-e933f677fe68_story.html

“GOP anti-tax policy goes over the cliff”; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/gop-anti-tax-policy-goes-over-the-cliff-85657.html

Charles Krauthammer: “Cliff deal a ‘rout”; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/krauthammer-cliff-deal-surrender-85656.html?ml=po_r

“Why President Obama, Mitch McConnell took the deal”; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/why-mcconnell-obama-took-the-deal-85655.html#ixzz2Gr6BLtPZ

“Obama hails tax bill, warns GOP not to pick fight on debt ceiling”; http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/275123-obama-hail-cliff-deal-but-warns-gop-on-debt-ceiling

“How Maps Helped Republicans Keep an Edge in the House”; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/15/us/po

True Republican Mavericks‏

1:21 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Retiring Republican Senator from Maine,  Olympia Snowe seems to be taking a parting shot at the right wing extremism currently infecting the G.O.P. She recently said that she will not necessarily give her $2.36 million dollar war chest to another Republican. Quoting an article from the Kennebec Journal “outgoing Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) may be using her campaign cash to aid candidates of her choice rather than her party. In a letter written last week but released Tuesday, Snowe told campaign donors that she planned to give leftover cash to candidates in the “sensible center” rather than pledging that money to Republicans, signaling that the eventual GOP nominee may not be moderate enough for her taste.”

Olympia Snowe. Photo by John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV.

Snowe’s profile in courage in standing up to radical rightwing extremism was picked up by the leader of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, a guy named Matt Canter, who opined: “Mitch McConnell and national Republicans have disenfranchised moderates in Maine and across the country…So it should not be a surprise that Sen. Snowe is questioning whether to give her money to support the extremist, right-wing Republican agenda.”

Few would deny that Olympia Snowe has the courage of her convictions and she can only be seen as a leader of what’s left of the “sensible” right. Is she a fading voice in the wilderness or is she one of the first among an emerging element of Republicans who are seeking to “take their party back” from the political amateurs on the far right? Could it be that those radicals who may have shot their bolt in 2010 and whom have since proven only that they can succeed in obstructing government when the American people want bipartisan compromise and results have created an opening for the sensible conservatives to reassert themselves?

Read the rest of this entry →

Ms. Bachmann a Migraine Headache for the G.O.P.?

5:21 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Anyone who has been paying attention to politics and especially the politics of the Tea Party movement remembers how Sarah Palin, back in 2010, claimed that the “sleazy G.O.P. establishment” was out to derail her run for the presidency in 2012. Palin was reacting to an article in Politico that top Republican operatives were “working to stall her momentum in hopes of crippling a potential presidential run.” Now some are suggesting that the same group of “good old boys” within the G.O.P.’s top leadership cadre have the same plans for Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann. That is to say that they in fact have put a political “hit” out on her by making an issue of her migraine headaches. I pointed out in an earlier article that the Republican establishment has little interest in the Tea Party movement aside from the contribution that it makes to voter turnout and its continual assault on Barack Obama’s “Socialist” agenda. Beyond that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell have maneuvered towards and away from the congressional Tea Party caucuses depending on what their individual political prerogatives are at any particular moment in time.

Well, as it turns out the perils of Ms. Bachmann seem to have fallen into the laps of two very unlikely champions, Ed Schultz and Lawrence O’Donnell, both of MSNBC. Schultz last night strongly defended Bachmann from recent “right-wing hit job” on her, and even admitted that he now respects her immensely for not being bullied by the establishment of the Republican Party. The reported allegations that Bachmann “pops pills like candy” and suffers from incapacitating migraines was, according to Schultz, a non-story “so heavy on insinuation and light on specifics.” Schultz laid the responsibility for this “hit” job at the feet of Karl Rove and Tim Pawlenty by way of the following observation: “Rove questions Bachmann’s fitness because he will never support a Tea Party candidate, while Pawlenty is merely a “buzzard circling a carcass” who is too afraid to challenge Mitt Romney.” Lawrence O’Donnell followed up the Schultz report with the observation that “It doesn’t strike me that Rove and company are particularly out to protect Romney, they just want Bachmann out of this race.”

Thus as Michele Bachmann’s standings in the polls rise, the kingmakers and professional political operatives within the Republican Party have apparently, according to Ed Schultz and others, unleashed an attack on Bachmann’s health so as to raise questions about her fitness to serve as president. Is this just the latest episode in the simmering internal conflict within the G.O.P. between the “establishment” and the Tea Party newcomers? That’s not too far fetched an idea based on the experiences of Sarah Palin and the ongoing internal conflicts between the Tea Party and the “establishment” as evidenced by the continuing conflict over spending cuts and revenue increases during deficit reduction negotiations. However, the question left unanswered is: Are the pros within the G.O.P. really that powerful as to derail the Tea Party and its leadership in 2012 or are they just playing for time and hoping beyond hope that the movement will burn itself out and cease to be a force that drives G.O.P. so far to the right that its candidates are virtually unelectable?

SJG

7/21/11

Sources:

Palin: ‘Sleazy’ GOP Establishment Is Out to Get Me

http://www.newser.com/story/104408/sarah-palin-sleazy-gop-establishment-is-out-to-get-me.html

Sarah Palin: GOP establishment ‘sleazy’

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1110/44550.html

From Republican Victory to Republican Civil War?

http://open.salon.com/blog/steven_j_gulitti/2010/11/01/from_republican_victory_to_republican_civil_war

Ed Schultz: My Respect For Bachmann Is ‘Through The Roof’ For Standing Up To ‘Right-Wing Hit Job’

http://www.mediaite.com/tv/ed-schultz-my-respect-for-bachmann-is-through-the-roof-for-standing-up-to-right-wing-hit-job/

Lawrence O’Donnell: The Bachmann Migraine Story Shows How Powerful She’s Become

http://www.businessinsider.com/odonnell-michele-bachmann-migraine-video-2011-7#ixzz1Sn8R5kD9

12:38 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Against the backdrop of heightened political rhetoric among conservatives about not being willing to raise tax revenues as part of the deal to raise the debt ceiling, there is a growing acknowledgement among many Republicans in Washington as to the ultimate need to increase revenues. While many on Capitol Hill continue to parrot conservative talking points about not increasing tax revenues, the political leadership within the G.O.P. and outside the Republican Party is sounding more and more amenable to some form of raising revenue, even if it is structured as tax reform.

In an interview that came in under the radar following the collapse of the debt talks chaired by Vice President Biden, Republican insider and former congressman Vin Weber appeared on the PBS News Hour to discuss the emerging cracks in Republican opposition to raising taxes to curb the deficit. This controversy is clearly evident in the ongoing public spate between Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) over what actually constitutes a tax revenue increase and the necessity of increasing revenues. Weber stated of Republicans engaged in deficit negotiations: “And I think, if they’re allowed to define, on their own terms, what constitutes a tax increase that opens the door to a broad tax reform that might broaden the base by closing loopholes and eliminating deductions and credits and exemptions, probably coupled with a reduction in top rates to spur economic growth, but resulting in a net tax increase.” As you may recall, Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform had circulated a Taxpayer Protection Pledge to conservative politicians for their signature ahead of the 2010 elections which many, particularly members of the Tea Party, signed. The Pledge includes the following wording “ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and…TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.” Thus the pledge, a document of the utmost importance on the far right, not only prohibits tax increases; it opposes any effort to raise revenue through the elimination of loopholes, deductions and credits “unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”

In the time that has elapsed since Weber’s PBS interview Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH) has approached the White House with a proposal for $ 1 trillion in unspecified new revenues as part of an overhaul of tax laws in exchange for an agreement that made substantial spending cuts, including in such social programs as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. According to White house officials, “Mr. Boehner suggested that he was open to the possibility of $1 trillion or more in new revenue that would be generated by addressing tax issues already raised in the talks, like killing breaks for the oil and gas industry, eliminating ethanol subsidies and ending preferential treatment for corporate jets. But those changes would fall far short of the revenue goal, and the source of the rest of the money would, under what they described as Mr. Boehner’s proposal, be decided by Congress through a review of tax law changes. One official said some revenue could be generated by allowing Bush-era tax cuts for affluent Americans to expire at the end of 2012, which would produce hundreds of billions of dollars, though those savings would be offset by the costs of retaining lower rates for those below the income threshold.” Eric Cantor (R-VA), who had walked out of the Biden talks and who has previously been a staunch opponent of raising revenues was quoted on PBS on July 6 as saying that he was willing to talk about closing loopholes and his fellow Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) likewise was quoted on the same program, “I’m open to tax reform. We need to do it broadly… Everybody’s going to have to contribute to it in one way or another.” Why even Tea Party backed Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) was on the news this evening saying that he was not necessarily opposed to raising revenues as long as it didn’t involve an increase in tax rates.

There is one other factor to consider in this whole discussion and that’s the current opinion of the American people. The latest Pew Research Polling on the subject: “Public Wants Changes in Entitlements, Not Changes in Benefits; GOP Divided Over Benefit Reductions”, reveals an American public that on a two to one basis feels that keeping entitlements the way they are is more important than reducing the deficit. Likewise similar levels of support are evident for other issues such as Medicare cost responsibilities and whether or not poor people should have their Medicaid benefits taken away. In fact if you go inside the numbers what you see is that even less affluent Republicans are now opposed to reductions in entitlements. While the political class and its attendant punditry are embroiled in discussing what to cut and where to raise revenues, the American people, even though they know that some type of reform is required, have expressed an emphatic desire to leave their benefits largely unchanged. Thus the Republican leadership in Washington has to maneuver between a public that wants it’s entitlements left alone, a Tea Party faction that has yet to understand that compromise is part of governing and the prospect of throwing our economy and the world economy along with it, into the tailspin that would result if we were actually to default on our Treasury obligations by failing to raise the debt ceiling.

The bottom line on the issue of raising revenues as part and parcel of a debt deal is that opposing such measures is a lose-lose proposition. Republicans came to power in the House in 2010 with the idea that getting the debt under control was one of the most important issues facing the nation today. Few reputable economists have taken the position that the debt could be reduced by spending cuts alone, thus revenue increases of some sort are required. To forgo increased revenue is to fail in the effort to reduce the debt, which for the G.O.P. is a loser. However, to consider revenue increases after having campaigned on no new tax increases of any type is a loser as well and as such any debt deal compromise that includes revenue increases can only be seen as a setback for the Republican Party. But beyond the fortunes of the Republican leadership are those of the Tea Party movement. Any debt deal that contains a significant increase in federal revenues can only be seen as a major setback for the Tea Party movement as well seeing as opposition to increased federal revenue has been a major reason behind the movement since its arrival on the political landscape.

Steven J. Gulitti
7/7/11

Sources:

Sen. Cornyn to Obama: Take Tax Increases Off the Table: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/july-dec11/budget_07-05.html

Cracks Emerge in Republican Opposition to Raising Taxes to Curb Deficit: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/jan-june11/goptaxes_06-24.html

Americans For Tax Reform: Taxpayer Protection Pledge;

http://www.atr.org/taxpayer-protection-pledge

Obama to Push for Wider Deal With G.O.P. on Deficit Cuts; http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/07/us/politics/07fiscal.html?emc=eta1

Lawmakers Remain Divided on Deficit Fundamentals as Deadline Draws Closer; http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/july-dec11/deficit_07-06.html

Public Wants Changes in Entitlements, Not Changes in Benefits; GOP Divided Over Benefit Reductions;http://people-press.org/2011/07/07/public-wants-changes-in-entitlements-not-change-in-benefits/

Boehner Must Navigate Rocky Road to a Budget; http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/25/us/politics/25fiscal.html?emc=eta1

G.O.P. Throwing the “Birthers” Under the Bus?

5:04 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Well it seems as if the Republican Party has come to a fork in the road as it relates to the issue of Barack Obama’s birth and the decision they have made suggests that they are ultimately willing to throw the “Birthers” under the bus. It’s a move motivated by the fact that the G.O.P. must ultimately protect its brand name and image and the “Birthers” serve only to tarnish the reputation and integrity of the party. The whole issue turns upon the fact that there aren’t enough Republicans or Democrats for that matter for either party to win an election based on its rank and file membership alone. With the last three elections having been decided by independent voters, the G.O.P. can’t possibly risk alienating that segment of the electorate if it hopes to remain in control of the House or make gains in the Senate or take the presidency in 2012.

Its generally believed that most independent voters are turned off by the birther debate and polling results tend to prove that as well. According to political pollster Geoff Garin when it comes to the risk posed by the “Birthers”: “It’s a real challenge for the Republican Party and virtually every Republican candidate for president… If it’s not handled well, all-important independent voters might see Republicans as extreme or irrelevant…The big question about the birthplace issue is the extent to which it drives a wedge within the Republican Party” and turns off independents in November 2012.” Thus we can clearly see that the G.O.P. knows that it’s very survival as a legitimate party is now at stake and I believe that as the election of 2012 grows nearer, the denunciation of the “Birthers” will only grow louder.
 
The list of believers now includes such stalwart Republicans like Arizona’s Jan Brewer, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell,  Haley Barbour, Tim Pawlenty and even Michele Bachmann. In fact even Sarah Palin stated: “I think that he was born in Hawaii because there was a birth announcement put in the newspaper.” Governor Brewer who may have issued the most dire warning among conservatives to date said on  CNN “The Birther issue was leading the country down a path of destruction.” It would seem that the political tide has turned against the “Birthers” and soon they too will be relegated to the same trash bin of history where the “truthers” currently reside. The “truthers” as you will recall are those who believed that George W. Bush was behind the 9/11 terror attacks. Well at least they will now have the “Birthers” to keep them company.

S.J.G

4/26/11 
 
 
 
Sources:
 
‘Birther’ Claims Force GOP Leaders To Take A Stand
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/23/birther-claims-force-gop-_0_n_852859.html
 
Polling Report.com: Obama’s Birthplace: http://www.pollingreport.com/obama_ad.htm
 
Jan Brewer: Birther Issue Leading Country ‘Down A Path Of Destruction’
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/25/jan-brewer-birther-issue-path-of-destruction_n_853596.html?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=042611&utm_medium=email&utm_content=NewsEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief
 
CNN Videos for Jan Brewer; http://topics.cnn.com/topics/jan_brewer
 
George Stephanopoulos And Michele Bachmann ‘Settle’ The Obama Birth Certificate Issue
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/20/stephanopoulos-bachmann-obama-birth-certificate_n_851529.html

Republican Leaders Again Equivocate On Spending Cuts‏

8:07 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Once more since arriving on Capitol Hill, the new Republican dominated House of Representatives and the newly reinforced Republican Senate minority has equivocated on the topic of spending cuts. By now we are all well aware that the Republicans have abandoned the goal of cutting $100 billion dollars this fiscal year and likewise, they have failed to produce a pro rata spending reduction plan to address that shortened year. We all remember that taxes, debt reduction and spending cuts were in the forefront of the Republican agenda for the 2010 elections as these headlines from conservative sources show: “Tax, Spending Cuts Top GOP Campaign-year ‘Pledge” or “Tax, spending cuts lead Republican campaign manifesto” Needless to say, You get the idea.

Okay so what then happened to all of the bold talk about taking on entitlements and spending? When faced with having to answer that question on national television Mitch McConnell echoed the reluctance that Speaker of the House John Boehner had previously stated. As if by magic, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appearing on “Meet the Press” danced around the question that Republicans seemed obviously reluctant to come out with bold measures to tackle deficit spending as the following exchange between Senator McConnell and host David Gregory reveals:

“MR. GREGORY: Well, that’s very interesting because I’ve also detected a great deal of caution on the part of Republicans who, who campaigned on the idea of spending cuts. And yet, when it comes to a program like Social Security–it was Speaker Boehner who told a group of us this week, “Well, look, we need to spend more time defining the problem before we get in the boat with the president here and say that we’ve got to make long-term changes.” Is that your view?

SEN. McCONNELL: Well, look, we have, we have two problems here. It’s our annual deficit, completely out of control. We’re going to send the president a lot less–we’re going to allow him to sign onto a lot less spending than he recommended the other night and that he’s likely to send us in the budget. Then with, with regard to long-term unfunded liabilities, the entitlements, Speaker Boehner’s correct, you cannot do that on a partisan basis. President Bush tried doing that in 2005 with regard to Social Security’s problems. And by the way, the announcement this week that Social Security’s gone into deficit, it will run a $45 billion deficit this year and for as far as the eye can see. Look, entitlement reform can only be done on a bipartisan basis. It’s happened before. Reagan and Tip O’Neill fixed Social Security in ’83. Reagan and the Democratic House did tax reform in ’86.

MR. GREGORY: So, but if the president were to say, “OK, Leader McConnell, if, if you’re prepared to deal with some revenue increases, we can also deal with some benefit cuts. Let’s take a balanced approach to Social Security,” you could support that?

SEN. McCONNELL: Look, you know, you’ve tried this before. I, I’m not going to negotiate the deal with David Gregory. I’d be happy to negotiate it…

MR. GREGORY: I keep hoping you’ll change your mind.

SEN. McCONNELL: I’d be happy to try to negotiate the deal, and Speaker Boehner would too, with the president and the vice president and others.

MR. GREGORY: But does the president have to go first before you’ll take on entitlement reform?

SEN. McCONNELL: We have to go together. We have to go together. The American people are asking us to tackle these problems. I think the president needs to be more bold. We’re prepared to meet–I’ve got a lot of new members, and Speaker Boehner does as well, who came here to tackle this big problem. We were waiting…

MR. GREGORY: But you’re saying, “Be bold on entitlements and Republicans will meet you halfway”?

SEN. McCONNELL: We’re happy to sit down and talk about entitlement reform with the president. We know Social Security is in trouble. It was just announced by CBO this week. We know Medicare is on an unsustained path. They took a half a trillion dollars out of it to fund this healthcare program that they enacted. Look, we need to get serious about this.”

As the above commentary reveals, what we have before us is a Republican leadership cadre that has already deviated from the rhetoric of the campaign trail by putting the ball in Barack Obama’s court by stressing that it is the duty of the President to come up with “bold” proposals on deficit and spending reduction as per Senator McConnell’s commentary above. But wasn’t that what the Republicans ran on in the first place? For all of the rhetoric of 2010 can’t they showcase their own bold ideas on “Meet the Press”, America’s premier Sunday morning political talk show? Likewise, Speaker Boehner’s comment that Republicans “need to spend more time defining the problem” also seems to ring hollow, coming from a guy who on this very show said before the 2010 elections that the G.O.P. had spent the past last year listening to “the American people.”

Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t the Republicans present themselves as the people who had this problem figured out and who knew what to do to get this country back on the right track, which oddly enough they got us off of in the first place when they squandered a trillion dollar plus surplus and launched two wars while cutting taxes, a historical first for the United States? They had the opportunity to put that surplus into the Social Security system or to use it to pay down the national debt as they were advised to do by Alan Greenspan, yet they chose to do otherwise. Now when elected to produce bold public policy to address our fiscal problems they plead for “more time” and look a president much maligned by them for “bold” proposals!

What’s also semi-comical is Mr. McConnell’s new found affinity for bipartisan cooperation. Isn’t it a bit curious that they very guy who said it was his goal to see that Barack Obama be a one term president, now openly solicits the President’s support and cooperation? Is this borne of a realization that the Republicans can’t possibly meet their agenda alone? Is this a maneuver concocted to throw a curve ball at the Tea Party crowd as there has been little beyond rhetoric on the part of the G.O.P. when it comes to deficit reduction specifics? We’ve all heard about Congressman Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap for America” yet it’s a document that few in the Republican Party had signed onto in the run up to 2010.

In the final analysis it seems that the bold rhetoric of the campaign trail has now faded in the harsh winter of political reality. Hence the old adage, “talk is cheap.” Now that they are in a position of power in Washington, the Republicans will have to finally translate their rhetoric into policy, thus far they have done little but dance around the tough issues and meet tough questions with clever rhetorical replies. How long will that last before their constituents hit the streets and demand some form of accountability from those who went to Washington to turn back the tide of Obama “the Socialist.”

Steven J. Gulitti

1/30/11

Sources:

Meet the Press transcript for Jan. 30, 2011 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41317645/ns … anscripts/

The Tea Party Agenda: Is It Already Slip Sliding Away ?
http://open.salon.com/blog/steven_j_gul … iding_away

Republicans Lower Goal for Cuts to Budget;
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/05/us/po … 1&emc=eta1

GOP Exempts Deficit Busting Policies From New Budget Rules;
http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011 … -rules.php

New pay-go rules reveal GOP’s misplaced priorities;
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co … s_opinions

House GOP Backtracking on Promised ‘Reforms’ Before They Even Get Started;
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/0 … 04227.html

“Tax, Spending Cuts Top GOP Campaign-year ‘Pledge”
http://www.newsmax.com/InsideCover/USRe … /id/371215

Tax, spending cuts lead Republican campaign
manifestohttp://www.cleveland.com/natio … publi.html

The Tea Party and the G.O.P.: The First Fissures?

5:58 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

I recently wrote that I believe a number of unavoidable “train wrecks” will occur between the Tea Party and the Republican Party. When it comes to these “train wrecks” it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. The first of these are taking shape before anyone even arrives on Capitol Hill to take a seat in the new Congress. The first two issues of contention will be who gets the committee chairs and the attempt to “repeal and replace” Obamacare.

Tea Party-endorsed candidates accounted for almost half of the House seats picked up by the G.O.P. and members of the movement are expecting to play more than second fiddle to Republican veterans in the 112th Congress. A recent article on these newcomers and their expectations revealed: “The large number of incoming Tea Party-backed candidates has empowered Republicans aligned with the grass-roots activists to try to expand their power in Congress. Representative Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican and a favorite of the movement that seeks limited government, announced yesterday on Facebook that she will seek a leadership post in the party’s House caucus.” While committee chairmanships may be the expectation of the newly elected Tea Party backed members, the reality will be quite different. You see the incoming Speaker of the House, John Boehner is not exactly an ideologue or a fan of the movement. Moreover, the process for securing committee chairmanships takes place within the personal politics of the House and not on the set of Fox News or on the campaign trail, which is to say that the workings of Congress have not changed even if the Tea Party has come to Washington. As such, it’s more than likely that the new occupants of the various committee chairmanships have already been selected and it’s not likely that you will find too many Tea Party people among them. Representative Steve King, an Iowa Republican who is supporting Bachmann said: “party leaders want to pack the leadership team with their picks. That means there’s not someone on the inside circle who’s going to be the voice of constitutional conservatives. That would be a shame, since they are the ones who gave us this majority.” If this in fact turns out to be the “new normal” on Capitol Hill, was the claim made that the Tea Party Movement has been used for its votes and its efforts farfetched or is it likely to be an accurate assessment of an unfolding reality?

The second stumbling block on the road to 2012 will be the issue of what to do about Obamacare. Many who ran as first time candidates and who received the Tea Party endorsement signed a pledge that states: “I pledge, if elected, to vote for all bills which seek to repeal the health care bill, HR 3590, signed into law on March 23, 2010.” Likewise, existing Republicans who sought re-election signed a similar statement in order to obtain the movement’s endorsement and support. In “A Pledge to America”; the G.O.P. committed to:” to “repeal and replace” Obamacare should their party gain control of the U.S. Congress.” However, without control of the Senate and in the face of an Obama veto, this was an unrealistic aspiration to begin with. That unrealistic goal has already led Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to back away from any such idea. As McConnell said yesterday during a speech at the Heritage Foundation.: “We may not be able to bring about straight repeal in the next two years, and we may not win every vote against targeted provisions, even though we should have bipartisan support for some…But we can compel administration officials to attempt to defend this indefensible health spending bill and other costly, government-driven measures, like the stimulus and financial reform.” Well, it doesn’t take a seasoned political analyst to see that this will run right into what the Tea Party Movement’s adherents want and expect. Just yesterday the co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, Mark Meckler was on national television speaking on what he believes the American people want and what the Tea Party wants to deliver: a total roll back of the Obama agenda. “They are not in a mood for compromise”, said Meckler of both the movement’s rank and file and the larger electorate. Well as it may more than likely turn out, those who are unwilling to compromise may be the ones who are ultimately disappointed and not vice versa.

Steven J. Gulitti
11/5/10

Sources:

“Mitch McConnell: Rapid health repeal unlikely
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1110/44702.html#ixzz14PuzzhNh

“Tea party winners take ambitious promises to DC”
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101103/ap_on_go_co/us_tea_party_12

“Tea Party Wins House for Republicans, Wants Rewards”
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40027736/ns/business-bloomberg_businessweek

House Republicans Pledge to ‘Repeal and Replace’ Obamacare
http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/75702

The Pledge to Nowhere
http://www.redstate.com/hogan/2010/09/23/the-pledge-to-nowhere/

The Repeal Pledge
http://www.therepealpledge.com/

From Republican Victory to Republican Civil War?

9:02 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Republicans have not even popped the corks of their celebratory champagne bottles yet and already there is a anti-Tea Party coup in the works the goal of which is to torpedo the presidential aspirations of Sarah Palin before her campaign even gets underway. A damming article from Politico which broke just yesterday revealed a concerted if uncoordinated effort taking shape among Republican leaders to see that Palin does not secure the 2012 Republican nomination for president. Quoting Politico:”Interviews with advisers to the main 2012 presidential contenders and with other veteran Republican operatives make clear they see themselves on a common, if uncoordinated, mission of halting the momentum and credibility Palin gained with conservative activists by plunging so aggressively into this year’s midterm campaigns…There is rising expectation among GOP elites that Palin will probably run for president in 2012 and could win the Republican nomination, a prospect many of them regard as a disaster in waiting…“There is a determined, focused establishment effort … to find a candidate we can coalesce around who can beat Sarah Palin,” said one prominent and longtime Washington Republican. “We believe she could get the nomination, but Barack Obama would crush her.” Thus it would appear that the trains are already on the track for what will be the first  train wreck between the G.O.P. esthablishment and the Tea Party Movement.You can add to this developing drama the existing controversy between Ms. Palin and Tea Party star Joe Miller, the current Alaska Senatorial contender whom Palin backed against Lisa Murkowski only to have Miller short change Palin when it came time to endorse her presidential aspirations. This G.O.P. esthablishment – Tea Party friction has been below the surface since the movement gained traction during the 2009 health care reform debates. Appearing on Fox News with Greta Van Sustern in the summer of 2009, Rush Limbaugh was nothing if not emphatic in his denunciation of the Republican leadership and the veiled contempt that they have for the Tea Party Movement generally and Sarah Palin in particular. Tensions only grew more intense as the Tea Party Movement knocked off several Republican veterans and hand picked contenders during primary season. Thereafter the movement went on to put a number of Republicans not currently running for re-election on notice that they too were in the movement’s cross hairs.

In an interview with the National Journal, Senate Republican Leader, Mitch McConnell said: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” Is McConnell’s rhetoric aimed at placating the Tea Party or does he actually believe that in the depths of the Great Recession, this is the single most important goal for a victorious Republican Party? What happened to the never-ending Republican cry: ”Where are the jobs?” What became of all of the talk of reducing the size of government, of tax policy and talk about how to “grow the economy.”? Now on the brink of victory the Republican elites have shown their hand and it consists first and foremost of political priorities aimed at winning the 2012 presidential election and making sure that Sarah Palin isn’t around to screw things up. What happened to the G.O.P’s big effort to “listen to the American people” this past summer? Thus we see just how important the dire state of the economy is to the elites who fashion Republican political strategy. Have McConnell and his lieutenants already misread the election’s outcome, taking it to mean that they have a mandate in spite of the fact that they are polling at lower favorability ratings then the Democrats that are about to be turned out of office? Have they misread a vote of protest for an endorsement of the Republican Party line which it can’t possibly be given the G.O.P.s historically low standing among voters? That said, how long would it be before the voters come down with that old sinking feeling of buyer’s remorse? Surely if the immediate follow on to the midterm elections is the out break of an intra-party civil war within the G.O.P. what else could a weary and disgruntled electorate feel but buyer’s remorse, dismay and disgust. The election’s outcome will certainly cause the Democrats to circle the wagons and try to regroup for 2012. But it already seems like the G.O.P. and the Tea Party are in the process of circling the rifles into a circular firing squad and that can’t be good at a time like this when the country is desperately in need of solutions to deep seated problems of long standing. The final question from all of this is: Has the Republican Party gotten more than it bargained for in its marriage of convenience with the Tea Party and is it too late to unwind the relationship before it tears the G.O.P. to shreds in an intraparty conflict that could end the Republican Party as we presently know it?

Steven J. Gulitti

11/1/10

Sources:

National Journal: http://nationaljournal.com/member/magazine/top-gop-priority-make-obama-a-one-term-president-20101023

Next for GOP leaders: Stopping Sarah Palin: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1010/44449.html#ixzz145L2C9cv

An Impending and Inevitable Train Wreck; http://open.salon.com/blog/steven_j_gulitti/2010/10/31/an_impending_and_inevitable_train_wreck

Tax Cuts and Their Efficacy: A Postscript

7:21 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

In two previous articles, “Maintain Tax Cuts for the Rich? Americans Don’t Seem to Buy the Conservative Argument” and the “Efficacy of Tax Cuts Is now Questioned” I laid out two basic premises. One was that a majority of the American people did not buy into the conservative argument that tax cuts had to be maintained for the richest among us. The second was that the use of tax cuts in this type of economic downturn had been called into question by some very prominent economists and that those same economists just happen to be on the right side of the political spectrum. The notion that tax cuts are of little use in this particular economic environment received further support last week with the publishing of the findings of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office from which the following conclusions were drawn: “ The concept of lower taxes is so appealing to voters that many embrace them as an economic cure-all… But economic research suggests that tax cuts, though difficult for politicians to resist in election season, have limited ability to bolster the flagging economy because they are essentially a supply-side remedy for a problem caused by lack of demand.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office this year analyzed the short-term effects of 11 policy options and found that extending the tax cuts would be the least effective way to spur the economy and reduce unemployment. The report added that tax cuts for high earners would have the smallest “bang for the buck,” because wealthy Americans were more likely to save their money than spend it….Neither of those options, though, would do as much to stimulate the economy as offering direct payments to the unemployed and Social Security recipients or reducing the payroll taxes of workers, the study found…So while the decision on whether to extend the tax cuts will have a lasting impact on the deficit and on how the nation’s tax burden is distributed, economists and tax experts say it is unlikely to offer much immediate relief for high unemployment and sluggish growth… It may have some small impact along the margins, but firms don’t hire based on tax breaks; they hire based on demand,” said Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. “So a lot of the tax breaks are likely to be rewarding people and companies for what they were going to do anyway.”

As a footnote to the above, it’s also of note that another prominent conservative has come to criticize the notion that tax cuts would be economically effective today. David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter and Fellow at the ultra conservative American Enterprise Institute, in an interview on NPR’s Marketplace said the following:” The recession began when all the Bush tax cuts were fully in effect. And yet, it’s suggested that re-enacting the tax cuts will somehow cure the crisis that those same tax cuts failed to prevent.” Don’t get me wrong, Frum is not endorsing the Obama Administration or its economic policies, not by a long shot. What he is saying, that is relevant to my premise is that those who are banking on tax cuts to pull us out of the current predicament are sadly mistaken as to their usefulness. Many would argue that tax cuts can only work if they are coupled with spending cuts, but to think that the government could reign in spending in the midst of this type of downturn requires a quantum leap of faith that would come with the notion that removing one of the only simulative elements remaining in the economy would somehow not cause the recession to worsen. This point was further underlined recently on Meet the Press. When pressed by moderator David Gregory, the Republican Minority leader, Mitch McConnell, declined to commit to spending cuts if the GOP took control of Capitol Hill. The bottom line is this: those on the far right fringe who parrot 18th and 19th Century economic concepts seem to strangely factor out the social chaos that would result from an ideology that was better suited for the world of Charles Dickens than the globalized world of today. The Republicans who hope to capture Capitol Hill in a few short weeks know this as well that’s why they are reluctant to go on the record and say otherwise.

A corollary argument that is used to support the extension of tax cuts to those families earning over $250,000.00/year is that idea that if this tax break is eliminated, that job creation will suffer. Here again there seems to be little in the way of empirical evidence to support this claim. A recent article; “Tax Increases Would Hit Few Small Businesses”; summarized the findings of the IRS and it’s Joint Committee on Taxation as follows: “Despite that emotional appeal, Internal Revenue Service statistics indicate that only 3 percent of small businesses would be subject to the higher tax, and many studies of previous tax increases suggest that it would have minimal impact on hiring… According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, 97 percent of all businesses owners do not earn enough to be subject to the higher rates, which would be levied on income of over $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for families…But much of the research over the last two decades has found that increases in top tax rates can lead to an increase in the formation of small businesses, as wealthy individuals apparently begin start-ups to avail themselves of the more generous tax breaks offered to businesses… Higher taxes may lead individuals to seek self-employment because the opportunities for tax evasion and avoidance are greater,” according to a report released this month by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, which surveyed more than 20 studies on the effects of taxes on hiring."

Thus it seems that the hue and cry about the dangers to job creation at the level of small business may in fact be greatly exaggerated after all, yet one more political football flying about amidst all of the misconceptions that relate to the issues of tax policy and it’s applicability in the midst of the worst downturn since the 1930s. It’s important to note that I am not against tax cuts per se; it’s just that they are not and never have been a cure all too economic ills. That said; the monotonous reiteration of the sanctity of tax cuts in this particular environment seems to amount to nothing more than the political posturing of those who are at a loss for good ideas as to what we need to do to repair the damage done over the past thirty years of deregulation and bubble economics.

With regard to the fact that most Americans don’t support extending tax cuts to the wealthiest, the latest New York times/CBS poll supports what the last Gallup Poll showed: “The poll found that 53 percent of Americans say Mr. Obama’s proposal to increase taxes on households earning $250,000 or more is a good idea, and 38 percent say it is a bad idea.” Thus once again as was previously pointed out, the disappointment and anxiety of rank and file Americans does not translate into empathy for the woes of the most fortunate among us.

Steven J. Gulitti

9/20/10

Sources:

1) News Analysis: Tax Cuts May Prove Better for Politicians Than for Economy ; http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/11/business/economy/11tax.html?emc=eta1

2) New York Times/CBS News Poll September 15, 201http://documents.nytimes.com/new-york-timescbs-news-poll-new-york-timescbs-news-poll-mood-of-the-country-as-midterms-approach?ref=politics

3) Tax Increase Would Hit Few Small Businesses; http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/18/business/smallbusiness/18smallbiz.html?emc=eta14)

4) Old assumptions equal a stagnant economy; http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/09/01/pm-old-assumptions-equals-a-stagnant-economy/

5) Meet the Press 8/22/10

http://thepage.time.com/details-mcconnell-on-presidents-commission-on-cutting-deficit/

Maintain Tax Cuts for the Rich? American’s Don’t Seem to Buy The Conservative Argument

7:07 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

We constantly hear the monotonous refrain from the right that now is not the time to raise taxes, even for the richest Americans, citing that this will somehow threaten the weak and halting recovery. Yet a composite number of 59% of the American people either favor the expiration of tax cuts for the wealthiest or a roll back of the Bush era tax cuts entirely as per the latest Gallup Poll. But oddly enough, it’s not just the folks on Main Street who feel this way; it’s also the sentiment of a few prominent thinkers on the right hand side of the political spectrum.

Take former Reagan OMB Director and economist David Stockman for example. He has emphatically been critical of the gains made by the richest Americans of late: “I find it unconscionable that the Republican leadership, faced with a 1.5 trillion deficit, could possibly believe that good public policy is to maintain tax cuts for the top 2 percent of the population who, after all, have benefited enormously from this phony boom we’ve had over the last 10 years as a result of the casino on Wall Street.” Stockman reinforced this point a few days later in an article entitled Four Deformations of the Apocalypse: “It is not surprising, then, that during the last bubble (from 2002 to 2006) the top 1 percent of Americans — paid mainly from the Wall Street casino — received two-thirds of the gain in national income, while the bottom 90 percent — mainly dependent on Main Street’s shrinking economy — got only 12 percent. This growing wealth gap is not the market’s fault. It’s the decaying fruit of bad economic policy.” Not to be missed is the opinion of Alan Greenspan who likewise has been critical of the G.O.P’s stance on eliminating tax breaks for those who need them the least. To wit: “Now Mr. Greenspan is wading into the most fierce economic policy debate in Washington — what to do with the tax cuts adopted, in large part because of his implicit backing, under President George W. Bush — with a position not only contrary to Republican orthodoxy, but decidedly to the left of President Obama. … Asked whether higher taxes in 2011 could choke off the nascent recovery, Mr. Greenspan replied: “It is risky, but the choice of not doing it is far riskier."

Taking the above into consideration the next question is: Will it be a winning strategy for the G.O.P. to continue to support tax breaks for the richest Americans when the support for that policy is not supported by a majority of those polled? In the long haul, I believe it’s a losing proposition for the G.O.P. to carry on about the well being of a relatively few in our society when so many are still having such a difficult time. There’s also the undeniable element of partisan politics in all of this. One can only ask the following question: If the leadership of the Republican Party is so up in arms over the Obama Administration’s proposal to adjust the tax level of the richest Americans back to levels in effect during the Clinton Administration, then were was their opposition to Ronald Reagan who presided over tax rates that were higher during his administration than those in existence during the Clinton Administration? Well, you can bet your bottom dollar that this is one discussion that neither Mitch McConnell nor John Boehner is going to be too anxious to have on the Sunday morning talk show circuit.

Steven J. Gulitti
9/10/10

Sources:

Americans OK Allowing Tax Cuts for Wealthy to Expire; http://www.gallup.com/poll/142940/Americans-Allowing-Tax-Cuts-Wealthy-Expire.aspx

Stockman: Bush Tax Cuts Will Make U.S. Bankrupt; http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129052425&ft=1&f=1014

Four Deformations of the Apocalypse; http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/01/opinion/01stockman.html?pagewanted=2&emc=eta1

Greenspan Calls for Repeal of All the Bush Tax Cuts ; http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/07/business/economy/07greenspan.html?_r=1&emc=eta1