There are many ways to fall into bad habits, but the easiest is when one tries a vice and then is rewarded for having done so. This is where the nation is with the Congressional Republicans. Their vice has been economic hostage taking, and like all successful hostage takers, when they want something they look around of the nearest economic crisis to grab a hold of and insist that they get their way.
Which is exactly where we are with the impending, and probably inevitable, government shut down; their least reasonable members, newly elected (thanks midterm voters) have been signaling for months that if they did not get every little mean spirited and economically moronic thing they wanted, they would shutter the Federal Government.
Now with Speaker Boehner (Putz-OH) reneging on his privately agreed to cuts, there is little chance that there will be an agreement and a vote. In fact there would have to be a bill published today in order to be able to follow the new House rule of 72 hours before a vote, for there to be anything to vote on by the deadline on Friday.
It is not like the Republicans think that the public is going to be kind to them on this issue. Their leadership remembers how it played out in 1995 and they don’t want to go into another presidential election with weak candidates and a sour taste for their party in the mouths of the electorate.
Which is why they are trying to do everything they can to pin this on the Democrats. Too bad the facts are all against them. Today they are going to introduce another Continuing Resolution that would extend spending for another week. Sounds good until you hear what the price tag is.
They will insist on 12 billion in cuts for that week and that all the riders (the direction that no money be spent on Planned Parenthood, NPR, Head Start, etc.) be included. If you annualized those cuts they would come out at ½ trillion dollars (500,000 million). This is going to be their attempt to look “reasonable”. Maybe someone should tell them reasonable people don’t demand everything they want and more when they are negotiating? Perhaps they need a couple of dictionaries so they can look up negotiation?
The other prong of their attack is going to be what we see from Sen. Tom Coburn (Mega-Putz, OK) in this mornings Washington Post. He takes the Op-Ed pages to talk about how it is all the fault of people failing to see that we are spending too much money so we must cut, cut, cut!
He asserts that the public is really concerned about the debt and deficit (which is against the polling which show they are really concerned about jobs and the economy) and that it is just inside the beltway that the argument over gutting social programs that serve the people is a problem.
He brings out some scary factoids from Conservative economists trying to make us sound like Ireland or Greece. From Sen. Coburn’s piece:
Economists Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff estimate that when an advanced economy such as ours reaches a debt-to-GDP ratio of 90 percent, we chop one percentage point of gross domestic product off our economy. That translates into about a million jobs not created. When you count the money we’ve raided from Social Security and Medicare, we’ve already reached that tipping point.
There are signs the inflation beast is beginning to awaken. Bill Simon, the head of U.S. operations for Wal-Mart, said last week that he sees “serious” inflation ahead. Inflation is an insidious indirect tax increase that can wipe away wealth and savings with little warning.
Sen. Coburn gives the old Republican flim-flam of conflating Social Security with Medicaid and Medicare. He says that if interest rates on Treasury bills go up to the historic 6% that by 2022 we will only be able to pay for these programs with our taxes and nothing else. For the 2 millionth time, Social Security is not paid for by income taxes, it never has been and it never will be.
This is where the good Senators credibility falls to pieces. In this entire article he never once mentions raising taxes. Even as he predicts apocalyptic economic collapse if we don’t reign in our debt he fails to look at the side of the equation that would produce the most results the fastest ending the Bush era tax cuts.
This is probably because extending them for the richest Americans was the last hostage taking that the Republicans engaged in. Back in December they held the 3 million unemployed workers (including at the time, myself) hostage to extend these unsupportable and unaffordable tax cuts. Now that the tax cuts are in place they are insisting that we cut the budget drastically and immediately to help pay for them.
The Republicans think they can generate enough smoke to obscure the fact that it is their intransigence and hostage taking that has brought us to the point of shutting down the federal government. I think they are wrong.
The American people might not pay close enough attention to their government most of the time, but they do have a sense, in general, of who is being a pouting baby and who is trying to do the work of the people. The fact is the Democrats in both the House and Senate have tried to compromise to avoid this shut down, even to the point of despair of their base, and nothing is good enough except exactly what the House voted in HR 1.
That fact along is going to make it more than clear that the Republicans for all their talk of fiscal responsibility are the same folks who will cut Head Start for poor kids, so people like Paris Hilton don’t have to pay a reasonable tax on money they never earned.
It is never a good policy to negotiate with hostage takers. Sooner or later you have to put your foot down and say “No”, even if the consequences are bad for you too. This is the time for the President and the Congressional Democrats to call the bluff of the Republicans.
It is possible they are so insane that they really will bring this country to its knees. But it is better if it happens now before the vote for the debt ceiling comes up. If they are intransigent on that, then it would not just be the United States that they would bring down but the entire world economy.
It is time to break the hostage taking habit of the Republicans. It is time for them to own the failure of their vision and policy and their complete lack of understanding that winning one House of Congress does not make you rulers of the nation.
The floor is yours.