Tag Archives: John Boehner

Why Congress Will Take Us Over The Cliff (And Other Depressing Predictions)

079 Capitol Hill United States Congress 1993

079 Capitol Hill United States Congress 1993 (Photo credit: David Holt London)

Before the year ends, I decided to go on record about how I think Congress will deal with the so-called “fiscal cliff”. I do this in hopes that they might prove me wrong. I would love to be pleasantly surprised.

Congress will send us over the cliff.

I do not believe that Congress will be able to pass any legislation that could be described as a tax increase. The Republicans will not allow themselves to vote for such. Memories are long about how the elder George H. W. Bush raised taxes despite having pledged not to (in his famous “read my lips” declaration), and he never recovered among conservatives. Every Republican must court the conservatives because their party has alienated every other group; they have no one left.

On January 1, the Bush tax cuts expire, so this means that tomorrow there will be an income tax increase for everyone who pays income taxes. The negotiations will suddenly switch from increasing taxes to lowering taxes. Republicans love to be able to claim credit for lowering taxes, so their attitude about passing legislation to solve the fiscal cliff will change dramatically at that point.

Similarly, but to a lesser degree, Democrats will more comfortably vote for legislation after the New Year. Just as taxes go up tomorrow, spending cuts take effect as well. A vote today for a Democrat means cutting a program, but tomorrow it will mean restoring a program.

So for both parties, a deal today looks bad politically because in a few years their opponent will be able to use the deal to attack them among their base. This is one reason, I believe, that John Boehner and the House yielded their constitutional duty to originate laws concerning the budget over to the Senate. If an ugly deal was going to happen, they wanted to make sure that it was the Democratic Senate that could be blamed.

Despite the fact that conventional wisdom is that the Democrats have the upper hand, I fear they will give up more than the Republicans in the compromise. First of all, I believe Obama and the Democrats are less willing to hurt people in order to achieve their political aims. If I’m right, Democrats will feel the pain of regular Americans more than Republicans. They will be more desperate to find a solution, and we have already seen the Republicans take advantage of this dynamic.

Second, I think Republicans are more afraid of their Tea Party base than Democrats are of their progressive base. Republicans will be more stubborn about pleasing their base than the Democrats. Third, Obama and the Democrats are already making more noises about compromises that they would be willing to make. So I fear that we are already seeing the conversation shift in the Republican’s favor.

By the middle of January, I believe that we will see a deal that gives more to the Tea Party than to the progressives. Naturally both sides will declare victory, but I believe that people will be crying about how Obama got outsmarted again. I believe that Obama’s favorability ratings will decline: his supporters will be unhappy with his negotiations, and those in the middle will see him as weak. The deal will avoid disaster, but it will not help the economy. It may not derail the recovery, but it will slow it down.

If I’m right, then it probably means that we will have another fight very soon about raising the debt limit, and unless Obama wins this fiscal cliff negotiation, then it will likely be another repeat of the mess we’ve already seen.

As I said, I’d love to be proven wrong. My version of the future is too depressing.

Republican Army of the Gullible

Republican Party (United States)

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Here’s the good news: the number of birthers (people who believe that Barak Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.A.) has declined from 20% to only 10% of the population following the release of Obama’s long form birth certificate.

Here’s the bad news: the number of people who believe that Osama bin Laden is still alive is sitting at 20% of the population.

So what’s going on here. Why do so many people believe things that facts show are false? Many theories abound. Maybe it’s part of the wave of the internet–where anyone can broadcast whatever bogus information they want. Maybe it’s because people are so suspicious of authority. Maybe it reflects a decline in public education.

I think there are many reasons, but I believe that one of the primary reasons has to do with politics, plain and simple. After losing the last presidential election so significantly, the Republican Party adopted a strategy as outlined by Rush Limbaugh, who famously said that he hoped that Obama would fail. After winning a majority in the House during the mid-term elections, the Republican Speaker of the House echoed Limbaugh by naming his top priority as defeating Obama. It was no longer about what was best for America, or even what was good for America, it had been reduced to a purely political calculus: the Republicans just want to be in power.

Obama identified this tactic last September when he commented “If I say the sky is blue, [Republicans] say ‘no.’ If I said fish live in the sea, [Republicans would] say ‘no.'”

Because Rush Limbaugh has been inoculating millions of listeners against truth and fact for a generation, the Republicans have a gullible core of people who are primed to disbelieve and dislike Obama regardless of who he is or what he does. This sets Republicans up to make their strategy effective. They can oppose even dire needs of our country (like fixing the financial system or not defaulting on our governments obligations) because it works to the benefit of their political party. If the economy tanks, that’s great news because they can blame it on their bogey man, Obama. If Americans die because they can’t go to the doctor, that’s great news because they can blame it on Obamacare.

And every time Obama outshines his Republican predecessor (as in actually finding Osama bin Laden), then they’re ready with their whisper campaign of doubts to sway their army of the gullible.

Enemies of the State

Protestors at the Philadelphia Tea Party on Ap...

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The Tea Party was born out of anger at the U.S. Government for stepping in to rescue U.S. financial institutions in order to avoid the collapse of the U.S. economic system. This group of people managed to send enough representatives to the U.S. House to form a powerful block within the Republican Party. We are now seeing the fruit of their labors, and the fruit is quite consistent with the interests they have shown from the start.

Last week they threatened to shut down the U.S. government unless the President and the Senate gave into their demands to cripple various programs of the U.S. government. They won a compromise that got them closer to their goal. They managed to make cuts to the EPA, law enforcement, and high speed rail development.

Now they’re ready for round two.  John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the house has already indicated that he would refuse to raise the debt ceiling on what the U.S. government owes unless more programs of the U.S. government are gutted.

If the debt ceiling were not raised, then this could lead to the U.S. government defaulting on its debt for the first time in its history. The ensuing financial crisis doesn’t much matter to a  man who was swept into power by a group who was angry the last time the U.S. government acted to avoid such a crisis. He is enjoying the bravado of a politician with a Dirty Harry sort of swagger, “go ahead, make my day.”

The President of the U.S., Barak Obama was swept into power by a group who was angry at the divisive politics of Washington.  He is interested in solving problems through reasonable means. Boehner, the Republicans, and the Tea Party are trying to use this to their political advantage. They see compromise as a weakness. They extol the “strength” of not being willing to compromise.

I wonder what we should call these enemies of the state who want to dismantle every government program in the service of reducing the taxes of the wealthy? What made these citizens hate their government so much that they’d rather see it fall into crisis than to continue serving its citizens in the way it is doing today?

Giving The Government Back to the “People” & Making “Tough Decisions”

John Boehner

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John Boehner is the new speaker of the House. He has promised to “give government back to the people” and make “tough decisions” to cut spending.

Based on what we saw from Mr. Boehner in the final few weeks of the lame duck session, he must mean the “people” with whom he hobnobs at fundraisers, because the only “people” to whom he has fought to give the government spoils are wealthy “people.”

He didn’t wrestle with making “tough decisions” about how to pay for his $80 billion gift to his rich friends. When he pushed to extend the Bush-era tax cuts to the wealthiest “people” in America, he just rang up more debt for the rest of us.

Now he is flip-flopping about the Republican promise to cut spending by $100 billion in 2011. Suddenly he’s not so certain he can manage to save $100 billion for the American “people” after he gave $80 to his “people”.  But no matter. His base doesn’t really pay attention to the facts; they are happy to keep drinking the Kool-Aid from the rabid right moguls that they adore.

The Republicans are probably thanking their lucky stars that they only have a majority in the House. Otherwise all their bluster about repealing the “people’s” health care program might actually pass and cost the “people” an additional $130 Billion in the first ten years and more than a trillion dollars in the next.

Of course their sense of irony and shame has not prevented the Republicans in Congress from breaking two campaign promises with their efforts to repeal the health care law. First, they are exempting this repeal from their pledge to make the “tough decisions” necessary to fully pay for everything they do.  Second, they are ignoring their promise of openness by imposing a closed rule: no pesky amendments will be allowed.  It’s all great theater, and it will be roundly applauded by their adoring fans.